Harry Reid's petty politics block giving sick 'right to try' treatments
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"If they saw what it does to somebody who was a healthy mom with a good career and great friends, and then all of a sudden this different path you can’t come back from, they would all say, 'what can I do to help?'"

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That’s what Trickett Wendler, a mother of three young children, told a Milwaukee-based news station in February 2015, roughly a month before she succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Also called "Lou Gehrig's disease," after the legendary New York Yankees first baseman, ALS is a terrible, debilitating neurological disease that cuts short the lives of those it ravages.

Sadly, there is no cure.

Wendler knew her time would be cut short, but she bravely fought for every breath, for her loving husband and children. "At this point in time," she said, "I know I’m drawing closer to the end."

Recently, the Senate was presented with the opportunity to help those like Trickett Wendler.

The Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act would allow patients with terminal illnesses to try investigational treatments when no other options are available. The bipartisan legislation, which offers a hope to terminally ill patients and families, is championed by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Tax bills speed up global tax race to the bottom Someone besides the president should have the nuclear codes MORE (R-Wis.).

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor MORE (D-Nev.) blocked the legislation from receiving a vote.

Supposedly, Reid had procedural disagreements. He complained that it didn’t receive a committee hearing. In fact, right to try was the subject of a September 22 hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Johnson.

Yet Reid’s objection was also grounded in disgusting partisan politics. Not only did he falsely claim that right to try wasn’t heard in committee, Reid also had the audacity to complain about Senate Republicans not rubber-stamping President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak MORE’s Supreme Court nominee.

But on right to try — as is often the case — Congress is lagging behind the states.

Thirty-two states have passed right to try laws. The list includes traditionally Republican states like Alabama and Texas, the Democratic strongholds of Oregon and Illinois, as well as purple states like New Hampshire and Nevada. Even California’s Democratic governor signed right to try legislation into law in late-September.

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for experimental drugs and treatments is a long and costly process, and terminally ill patients simply don’t have time to wait on bureaucracy disguised as “consumer protection.”

It’s true that the FDA does allow clinical trials for some experimental drugs and treatments that are going through the approval process, but only three percent of terminally ill patients participate in these trials.

The Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act keeps the federal government from prohibiting the production and prescription of experimental drugs that have cleared the first phase of the FDA approval process. In addition to protecting patients under treatment, the bill clears manufacturers and prescribers from any potential liability.

Right to try may not be the answer for all those who are terminally ill, but the glimmer of hope it offers by cutting through FDA bureaucracy simply can’t be understated. As Wendler’s daughter, Tealyn, recently said, "We don't have time and we don't have years to wait."

"It feels like you're stuck like the government is in charge of your life," the 12-year-old explained, "and they haven't been in your shoes either."

Just days before her death, Trickett Wendler offered a glimpse of what it’s like to be in her shoes:

"It’s gotten really scary, especially at night. Sometimes I'll wake up gasping for air, so I think I’m getting close — so I wanted you to know. I hope my story has a lasting impression that helps others because I pray to God that this disease never happens to them because ALS doesn’t care who you are."

Trickett Wendler’s words matter more than mine ever will. I hope Harry Reid will learn about her story and stop putting petty partisan politics ahead of good public policy.

Adam Brandon is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.