WASHINGTON— The Hill reported Sunday that the House is expected to hold a vote Tuesday on the Republican-backed Right to Try Act. The Right to Try Act is a bill that would allow terminally ill individuals to ask to try experimental treatments that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The legislation would not automatically permit individuals with terminal illnesses to try experimental treatments, but rather permit them to make a request, also with no requirement for pharmaceutical companies to provide any medicine. Assistant Professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvanian Perelman School of Medicine, Holly Fernandez Lynch, said of the legislation, "This is a right-to-ask bill, not a right-to-try bill."
Opposition to the Legislation
Marijuana advocates do not support the legislation because it ignores the issue of access to medication and experimental drugs. The FDA already has a program for experimental drugs called the expanded-access or compassionate use program. The program already approves 99 percent of all requests it receives annually.
The Washington Post reported that over 75 different organizations sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, asking them to reject the bill. Groups against the legislation include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (also known simply as Susan G. Koman), and the National Brain Tumor Society.
The letter says that the legislation would do more harm to terminally ill individuals than help them, noting that the FDA already has regulations that protect people’s safety when trying experimental drugs.
Those opposed to the bill also believe that terminally ill individuals should have access to try any drug that has the potential to help them find relief, with all decisions left up to them and their physician.
The House bill only allows those with a terminal illness that is expected to end their life within a few months to be eligible for experimental drugs. The bill also requires individuals with a terminal illness to exhaust all other known treatments before they can apply for treatments under the Right to Try Act.
President and CEO of Friends of Cancer Research, Jeff Allen, says the legislation mistakenly blames the FDA and believes removing them from the equation will create more issues. Allen said that individuals could receive dangerous drugs from manufacturers operating without ethics or safety regulations. The FDA says that many drugs do cause side effects that are often worse than the condition they are meant to treat or that don't work at all.
Frank Pallone, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill gives false hope to terminally ill individuals who assume that they will have better access to treatments when in fact they will not, adding that the legislation doesn't force pharmaceutical companies to provide anyone such treatments.
With the GOP is so willing to give people the right to try experimental drugs, it leaves one to ponder why they do not remove cannabis from the federal Schedule I classification so that medical research can be conducted. The Right to Try bill is strongly supported by Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the Freedom Partners, an organization funded by the Koch Brothers.
President of Cognition Therapeutics, Kenneth Moch, is trying to make new treatments for Alzheimer's disease and similar illnesses. Moch believes the legislation "is feel good legislation" and not "meaningful legislation for people in need."
After the House votes on the bill, it will go back to the Senate for a final vote. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that he expects the Senate to pass the vote swiftly.