A coalition of forces — Vice President Mike Pence, some GOP members of Congress, and conservative activist groups like Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity – are aiming to get “Right to Try” legislation passed through the U.S. House of Representatives soon. The legislation would make it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental treatments without oversight from the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA has a “Compassionate Use” program, that allows terminally ill patients to access experimental drug treatments. Groups like Freedom Partners and AFP contend the current program is costly, onerous and overly complicated. In a letter to Greg Walden, Oregon Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the groups write, “According to one estimate, only about 1,000 individuals are able to enroll in the FDA’s program every year. Federal Right to Try legislation would work with the FDA’s approval process to determine which experimental medications and treatments terminally ill patients could access, including only those that have passed Phase I of the FDA approval process and remain in ongoing FDA-sanctioned phase trials. Right to Try does not limit the FDA’s final approval process, but instead makes all terminal patients eligible to try drug and treatments in clinical trials.” The legislation would also provide drug companies some legal protection if a treatment results in harm.
Thirty-seven states have passed versions of the legislation. The federal version of the bill passed the Senate by voice vote and awaits action in Walden’s committee.
Freedom Partners will run ads supporting the legislation in the D.C. area; the group declined to disclose the cost of the advertising campaign.