With all medical options exhausted, the only alternative for some terminally ill patients comes down to trying something never been tried before. This includes experimental drugs and treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The problem is that FDA doesn't allow human testing of experimental therapies.
For patients and their families, "Right-to-Try" laws may offer them a last ditch hope. Yet passing a federal Right-to-Try law remains an elusive goal for lawmakers.
In a speech in New Hampshire discussing his plans to combat the opioid epidemic, President Donald Trump, echoing a point in his State of the Union address, made clear his support for a federal Right-to-Try law.
"We are going to get it approved," he told the crowd.
Already, 38 states have some form of the law on the books, but a federal law is required to grant certain exemptions to terminally ill patients who want to try out drugs that haven't gotten the all clear by the FDA.
One of the driving forces behind changing the law has been the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute. On its Right-to-Try project website, it makes the moral and practical case for allowing access to experimental therapies.
Over 1 million Americans die from a terminal illness every year. These Americans aren’t just statistics, they’re our friends, loved ones, and family members. Many spend years searching for a potential cure, or struggle in vain to get accepted into a clinical trial. Unfortunately, FDA red tape and government regulations restrict access to promising new treatments, and for those who do get access, it’s often too late.
The FDA drug approval process can take up to 15 years. This is far too long for dying patients to wait. Terminal timelines are measured in months, weeks and days. Not decades. Many potentially life-saving treatments awaiting approval in the U.S. are already available overseas, and have been for years. Sadly, most Americans cannot afford to seek treatment abroad. Many are left without hope.
Opponents of Right-to-Try laws often say that patients are put in harm's way from drugs not approved by the FDA. Several former FDA heads say that such experimental drugs and procedures would put vulnerable patients at further risk.
The logic behind Right to Try is that patients are already likely to die, so the potential risk is worth it even if the treatment offers just a glimmer of hope.
The Senate passed a Right-to-Try bill back in fall 2017. The House of Representatives recently took up a vote on the idea, but it failed to pass. It may take up the issue again in the near future.
Do you support Congress passing a Right-to-Try law? Let us know your thoughts!