If you have a terminal illness, what types of drugs should be available to you? Should you have the right to try medicine that has proven to be safe, but has not yet met federal standards of effectiveness?
That is the question that is behind the debate over “right to try laws.” These laws would allow patients with a terminal illness to have access to experimental medication, as long as their use is supervised by a doctor.
Thirty-three states have passed “right to try” laws. The Alaska House of Representatives passed legislation this year, as did both houses in the Iowa legislature. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island, are considering similar bills.
Supporters of this legislation say that patients who are facing death should have the right to try any medication that could possibly cure their disease or prolong their life. Critics contend that these laws give patients false hope and could possibly interfere with drug trials.
Congress is also considering federal legislation that would have more impact than state bills. As a federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration is not subject to state authority. That means that state laws do not have a direct impact on whether or not patients can obtain this medication.
President Trump has expressed support for this effort. When he was governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence signed a “right to try” bill into law.
Regardless of the controversy in the medical community or the practical impact, “right to try” laws garner strong bipartisan support in the states where they are considered. With health care a hot topic in Washington, D.C., we could see action on a national bill this year.
Do you support “right to try” legislation?