Statement on Failure of “Right to Try” Bill

Diana Zuckerman, PhD, National Center for Health Research, March 13, 2018

We thank the Members of the House of Representatives who voted against the misleadingly named Right to Try bill yesterday, because they understood that the bill would have done so much more harm than good for desperate patients.  The bill would not improve access to experimental treatments for which there is any real hope of benefit to seriously ill patients.  Instead, it would set up a new, untested program that would enable desperate patients to purchase drugs for which there is no evidence that they would help patients live longer or even temporarily feel  better.  Worse, these drugs could cause painful, debilitating deaths, with virtually no protections in place for patients.

We know that some patients are willing to try anything.  Unfortunately, 85% of the drugs that would become available through the Right to Try legislation are expected to be later proven to be not safe and not effective.

An effective program is already in place for patients who don’t qualify for clinical trials but want to try experimental drugs for which there is at least some small evidence of possible benefit.  That program is called “Expanded Access” or “compassionate use.”  It has been in existence for years and it works.  We urge all Members of Congress to learn more about that program and consider how to strengthen it, instead of being persuaded by false promises of false hope.

And be sure to also listen to the loved ones of patients who have been harmed by experimental drugs.  There are many more of them  than there are of patients helped by Right to Try legislation that has already passed in most states.

A copy of our Fact Sheet on the most recent House and Senate Right to Try bills is available here.