Lawmakers on Capitol Hill narrowly defeated a bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients who have exhausted other treatments to access drugs and therapies even without full Food and Drug Administration approval.
According to National Review, the so-called “Right to Try” legislation missed the two-thirds majority vote required for passage. A Senate version of the bill has already been passed.
Under the bill’s provision, qualifying patients would legally have access to pharmaceuticals with at least Phase 1 approval in clinical studies. The legislation would not, however, compel drug companies to make their products available to patients seeking them.
The bill has found support among many conservative groups, including the Goldwater Institute. That organization’s president and CEO said the House vote is a roadblock, not a deterrent, in the ultimate goal of securing the right of Americans to “exercise their freedom to fight to live.”
Victor Riches said the failure of supporters to pass the legislation is the result of “scare tactics, falsehoods, and innuendo” from lobbyists seeking to defeat it.
A letter signed by dozens of organizations and sent to congressmen urged them to vote against the bill, suggesting its passage would “likely do more harm than good.”
For its proponents, however, the idea of providing people hope in an otherwise desperate situation is worth dismissing concerns that “Right to Try” could potentially undermine the FDA’s regulatory power.
GOP Rep. Joe Barton of Texas responded to those who say the bill can give people false hope that a miracle drug might save their lives.
“When you have no hope, perhaps false hope is better than no hope at all,” he said.
According to Barton, he holds that position despite having seen his brother die after entering a trial involving an experimental medication.
“Give hope a chance,” the congressman said, echoing the sentiment of many supporters.
Frank Mongiello, who is living with Lou Gehrig’s disease, emphasized the importance of hope to individuals with terminal illnesses.
“There is no such thing as false hope,” he said. “Because while there is breath, there is hope.”
The concept behind the “Right to Try” bill has been endorsed by numerous GOP leaders, including President Donald Trump, who addressed the issue in his State of the Union speech earlier this year, according to Fox News.
“Patients with terminal conditions, terminal illness, should have access to experimental treatment immediately that could potentially save their lives,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence has also been clear in expressing his support, including in a tweet he posted in January.
Citing a meeting with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Pence offered a firm endorsement of the proposal.
“Let’s get this DONE,” he wrote.
According to an FDA spokesperson, Gottlieb and Pence discussed “how to advance this measure in a way that protects patients and provides them with the potentially lifesaving opportunities they deserve.”
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