‘Right to try’ bill boosting access to unproven treatments heads to Trump with support from Rothfus, not Lamb
President Trump is expected to sign a bill supported by Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and opposed by Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, that would expand access to unapproved treatments for patients with life-threatening diseases.
The House this week passed the “right to try” bill 250-169, mainly along party lines. The Senate approved it in August.
The measure was sent to Trump, who said during his State of the Union address in January that “patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives.”
The legislation provides access to patients with a “life-threatening disease or condition” who have exhausted approved treatment options and who can’t participate in a clinical trial for the unapproved drug.
The bill limits liability for drug manufacturers and prescribers and doesn’t require drug companies to provide the unapproved treatments to patients. There are no requirements for insurers to cover the treatments.
“For those who may benefit from experimental treatments that have yet to be fully approved, this legislation gives them hope, as well as the opportunity to help others, as the results of treatment will be added to the universe of data on what may help,” Rothfus said in a statement. “Not only did I cosponsor this bill, but I voted to send it to the president’s desk. Families facing life-threatening illnesses should have every chance to live. They should have the right to try.”
Opponents, including about three dozen groups representing patients with serious illnesses who wrote a letter to Congress , have said the bill could do “more harm than good” by expanding access to drugs whose safety and effectiveness haven’t been proven.
A group of medical professionals pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration already has a program to grant access to experimental drugs, and that the agency approves over 99 percent of the requests it receives for expanded access.
“What we need is a serious, bipartisan effort to bring together patients, families, drug companies and health care providers to help people with life-threatening diseases find safe pathways to treatment,” Lamb said in a statement. “Instead, in typical Washington fashion, we got a one-sided bill that’s opposed by many of the patients who need our help.”
The two representatives are campaigning against each other in Pennsylvania’s newly redrawn 17th Congressional District, which includes Beaver County along with parts of Allegheny and Butler counties.
Thirty-eight states, including Pennsylvania, have passed right-to-try legislation of their own.
Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.