The House will vote next week on Senate-passed legislation aimed at making it easier for sick patients to access experimental drugs — a big priority for President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE, Vice President Pence and groups backed by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch.
“This will not only offer a chance for the patient to possibly find treatment but could open possibilities to help others do the same,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySchiff: McCarthy 'will do whatever Trump tells him' if GOP wins back House House GOP campaign arm raises .8 million in third quarter McCarthy raises nearly M so far this year MORE (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
“I am proud we will send this historic legislation to President Trump and offer hope to individuals and families facing dire circumstances.”
In August, the Senate passed Right to Try by unanimous consent. The bill, which Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' Ron Johnson slams DOJ's investigation of schools, saying it unfairly targets parents MORE (R-Wis.) championed, lets sick patients request access to treatments the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t yet approved.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Ex-Rep. John Shimkus joins lobbying firm Lobbying world MORE (R-Ore.) had expressed concerns with the Senate bill, however. He worked to hammer out a different version that, among other changes, further defined the criteria necessary for a patient to be able to receive experimental drugs.
But on Thursday, Walden appeared to offer support for the Senate-passed bill, and laid blame on Senate Democrats.
“It is time for the House to do what Senate Democrats won’t and send a right-to-try bill to the President’s desk, bringing hope to terminally-ill patients across the country,” Walden said in a statement. “I applaud President Trump and Vice President Pence for their tireless support for right-to-try legislation and the patients whose lives hang in the balance.”
In late March, the House bill passed its version of Right to Try in a 267-149 vote, largely along party lines.
The announcement on Thursday that it will take up the Senate's bill comes as congressional momentum had appeared to grind to a halt the past two months, leaving the path forward on the measure unclear.
Senate Democrats last year didn’t object to the bill Johnson introduced with Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (D-Ind.), which also sidesteps the FDA.
But since the opposition from House Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act MORE (D-N.Y.) has voiced concerns about taking the FDA out of the equation and objected to a request to bring the House bill up by unanimous consent.
House Democrats voiced concerns about patient safety that were echoed by some advocacy groups.
“By allowing patients access to investigational treatments that have only completed a phase one clinical trial, patients will be exposed to treatments with no or relatively little data that they are actually effective,” the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats announce bill to rein in tech algorithms House Democrats ramp up probe of FDA approval of Alzheimer's drug Intercept bureau chief: Democrats dropping support of Medicare for All could threaten bill's momentum MORE (N.J.), said during the debate on the House floor in March.
Opponents of the bill had also pointed to FDA’s compassionate use program, saying the agency approves 99 percent of requests to let a patient use an experimental drug. They also said the bill provides a sense of “false hope,” since drug manufacturers aren’t required to provide the drug to patients who ask.
Supporters of the measure have argued it's safe and that people with a terminal illness should have all tools at their disposal to try a drug that could possibly help them.
“For years, terminally ill patients and their families have been fighting for the right to hope and the freedom to try to save their own lives," Johnson said. "I truly appreciate today’s announcement that House leadership plans to advance this effort by taking up my bill that passed the Senate unanimously."
--Updated at 12:49 p.m.