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Local medical experts react to "right to try" bill

Posted at 8:44 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-23 00:18:08-04

The House of Representatives passing a federal "right-to-try" bill Wednesday night, leaving many wondering what it could mean for their health.

It's a bill, supported by President Donald Trump, giving terminally ill patients the right to seek drug treatments that have not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The "right-to-try" bill passed the House 267 to 149. Now, it only needs approval from the Senate. The bill already exists in 38 states, including Arizona, but this federal bill would introduce legislation in the entire country.

Those supporting the bill say it's really a law for people who are very sick, have no other treatment options and can't enroll in a clinical trial. They argue by bypassing FDA permission, patients can save even more time. However, opponents saying it could have a detrimental effect.

"This law would allow basically anyone to do anything as long as the doctor and the patients agree," Dr. Daniel Persky, associate director of the University of Arizona's Cancer Center.

According to Persky, the FDA already has compassionate use policies, that give terminally ill patients without other options access to experimental drugs outside of clinical trials. He says the requests are generally processed within a few days by the FDA. "I think a day or two are very reasonable to understand about the drugs," he said. 

Some law experts in Tucson say the legislation is not necessary and believe not only the patients' health that is at stake, its the expenses in our healthcare system. He says the drugs are coming out to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we are all paying for that through our taxes and Medicare and Medicaid, "it's important for the FDA to take some time to figure if they are safe," University of Arizona law professor Christopher Robertson said.