New Bill Gives Hope To Terminally Ill Patients Seeking Expirmental Drugs

Known as the “Right to Try” bill, the proposed law would let terminally-ill patients take potentially life-saving drugs not yet approved for the public.
By @LesNeuhaus |
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    Cassidy Hempel, Chris Hempel

    Cassidy Hempel, 6, waves at hospital staff with the help of her mother Chris at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, Calif. Cassidy and twin sister Addison are receiving experimental treatment for Niemann Pick Type C disease, a rare disorder where harmful amounts of cholesterol accumulates in vital organs.(AP Photo)

    A bill that is making its way in various forms through several state legislatures would allow some terminally ill patients to try new drugs that have not been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration, according to a powerful Libertarian think tank.

    The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based outsized organization that plays a huge role in Arizona state politics, has lobbied hard for the passage of “The Right to Try Act.”

    The move is largely seen as a reform to the FDA, which has been hampered for decades by federal laws prohibiting exploratory drugs before they have been properly vetted for safe use by the general public.

    “This is a liberty-based reform that gives more freedom to people … and it cuts across all demographics,” Christina Corieri, a health care policy expert with the Goldwater Institute who drafted the bill, told MintPress News on Tuesday.

    “When you’re talking about your health, people have a visceral reaction to that,” she said of the broad support the legislation has received by lawmakers.

    She emphasized that the bill only includes drugs that have successfully completed the first phase of the FDA’s clinical trial process.

    “The reform … would empower terminally ill patients under the care of licensed doctors to access experimental drugs that have passed basic safety tests but whose efficacy is not yet conclusive,” according to the Goldwater Institute’s website.

    “Currently, it takes nearly a decade and up to $1 billion to shepherd life-saving treatments through the FDA approval process — time the sickest Americans simply do not have to wait,” it noted.

    Arizona lawmakers have passed the bill out of committee, and both chambers of the legislature could vote on it in coming weeks. It would then need to be approved by voters on the November ballot.

    Roughly “500,000 Americans died last year from cancer alone, with thousands more dying of other terminal illnesses,” the institute said. “Many dying patients who have exhausted traditional treatment options attempt to enroll in clinical trials, but the vast majority are denied access because their illnesses have progressed too much or there are other complicating factors.”

    Of the 40 percent of cancer patients who try to get into experimental trials, only 3 percent are successful, the institute reported.

    Corieri hopes the Arizona bill will serve as a national template that drives public attention to the issue and forces Washington to take a hard look at its policies.

    Currently, she said, Colorado and Missouri are also considering such legislation, but the difference is that lawmakers there would take it to a vote, instead of leaving the measure in the hands of regular voters.

    Lawmakers in Utah, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and California are also looking into the legislation, The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday.

    For medical doctor and State Rep. Jim Neely, who is sponsoring Right to Try legislation in Missouri, the matter hits close to the bone, according to information from the institute’s website.

    Neely’s adult daughter, Kristina, was diagnosed with colon cancer last year while she was pregnant, making her ineligible for clinical trials of experimental drugs. Her condition has since worsened.

    “This is about more than just one patient, it’s about guaranteeing the rights of those who are most in need,” said Neely. “People fighting for their lives shouldn’t have to battle red tape. The Right to Try Act gives terminally-patients a chance to continue their fight when the FDA has left them with no other options.”

    If enough states take notice, Corieri said, maybe the federal government — chiefly, the FDA — will do an about-face when it comes to their policies on experimental drugs and clinical trials.

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