Congress Passes 'Right-to-Try' Drug Bill

Law will let terminally ill patients bypass FDA
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2018 12:03 AM CDT
The American flag flies in front of the US Capitol at sunset.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)
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(Newser) – A "right-to-try" bill that allows terminally ill patients to request medication that hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration has passed Congress and is expected to be signed by President Trump. The bill, which passed the Senate last August, sailed through the House Tuesday with a 250-169 vote, largely along party lines. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly called it an "extraordinarily great day," CNN reports. Starlee Coleman of the conservative Goldwater Institute says the bill will make it easier for people in 10 states without right-to-try laws to access new treatments. "You don't have to file an application with the federal government," she says. "You just get to work directly with your doctor and a drug company if you meet the criteria."

Trump and Mike Pence took a personal interest in the bill, with Trump saying during his State of the Union address that his administration believes "patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives." House Democrats, however, warned that removing safeguards could lead to people like Martin Shkreli ripping off vulnerable patients with "snake oil" cures, Politico reports. "By removing the FDA oversight, you're counting on physicians and manufacturers to serve as the gatekeeper and protector of our patients," said New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. "I simply don't buy that that's going to work." Other critics of the bill say it's generally drug companies, not the FDA, that block people from trying unapproved medicines. (Read more FDA stories.)

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