“Right-to-try” laws are a cruel sham that purport to allow terminally ill patients access to promising experimental drugs. In reality, they strip away many protections and leave vulnerable patients on their own. After four years and a number of toothless state laws, a federal version of “right-to-try” has passed Congress and is poised to become law. Once President Trump signs the bill this week, this federal version of “right-to-try” will leave terminally ill patients on their own and will likely be the first step in returning the FDA to its pre-thalidomide state, in which it only required evidence of safety, not efficacy, to approve drugs.
It’s finally happened. A “right-to-try” bill is coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives. It’s been slightly modified from the version that passed the Senate last year to make it less patient-hostile, but it’s still the same cruel sham that right-to-try has always been.
So-called “right-to-try” is a cruel sham that holds out the mostly false hope of survival to terminally ill patients and their families. In return, all they have to give up is patient protections and agree to pay to be guinea pigs to test a drug company’s product. The product of an ideology that uses the terminally ill as shields to hide the ideological motives behind the law, which are to hobble the FDA, right-to-try is a terrible idea. It’s bad for patients, but it just passed the Senate and could well become the law of the land when the House reconvenes in September if it isn’t stopped.
“Right-to-try” laws claim to help terminally patients by allowing them access to experimental drugs before they are approved, when, in fact, their purpose is to undermine and weaken the FDA and such laws strip legal and regulatory protections from patients using such drugs. Now advocates are making a new push to pass right-to-try by embedding it in the very law that funds the FDA. They might succeed if they encounter no opposition from constituents.
Ill-advised right-to-try bills are spreading like kudzu through state legislatures. Now federal legislators want to insert right-to-try language into the bill that funds FDA drug approval. Given the support of powerful Republicans for right-to-try, is it too late to stop this juggernaut and protect patients?