February 23, 2024

“At some point, I stopped looking back”

Italian who once made an appointment with Dignitas has top job in government.

A man who has suffered for 14 years from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) has been a named president of the Agenzia italiana del farmaca (AIFA)- the peak body for regulating pharmaceutical products in Italy.

Mario Melazzini was named president by the Minister of Health in January 2016, after the previous president stood down as a result of accusations of conflict of interest. Melazzini, a 57-year-old doctor, was diagnosed with ALS in 2002. The average life expectancy for sufferers with this condition is around five years. Melazzini himself is wheelchair-bound and depends on a ventilator and on parenteral nutrition. In the summer of 2003 he had an appointment at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland; but he never showed up. Melazzini describes his change of plans simply: “at some point, I stopped looking back”.

In 2006, as president of the Italian Association of ALS patients, Melazzini intervened in the euthanasia debate in Italy that surround the case of Piergiorgio Welby. Among the goals he has in his new role, Melazzini says he wants to encourage the use of generic and biosimilar medicines, and to reinvest money saved to research diseases such as Hepatitis C. 

Dr Phil Elias writes from Rome. 

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