Koch brothers-backed groups are launching a campaign urging Congress to pass legislation allowing terminally ill patients to request access to experimental drugs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved.
Nearly 40 states have this law, known as “Right to Try,” already on their books. But Freedom Partners, in partnership with Americans for Prosperity — two groups funded in part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — say federal legislation is needed to assuage patient fears that the federal government will override state laws.
The new push, launched Monday, consists of a lobbying effort, 30- and six-second digital ads, a social media effort and more.
Additionally, the groups sent a letter Monday to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Ex-Rep. John Shimkus joins lobbying firm Lobbying world MORE (R-Ore.) urging him to prioritize passing the bill out of his committee and sending it to the full House for a vote. In August, the measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
“Congress is on the cusp of delivering real hope to millions of Americans who are desperately looking for potentially life-saving treatment that is just out of their reach,” the letter to Walden states. “Acting on Right to Try legislation could make all the difference.”
The bill would let terminally ill patients use medication as long as the drug completed FDA’s preliminary testing — a small-scale clinical trial — and is undergoing further clinical trials at the agency. The legislation has a key ally in the White House — Vice President Pence, who signed the law when he was governor of Indiana.
But opponents of the measure have concerns about using drugs the FDA hasn’t approved, saying it bypasses the agency’s authority and could hurt drug development efforts and patient safety. They also point out that the legislation doesn’t necessarily mean terminally ill patients will be able to try the unapproved drugs, as drug companies might not provide them with the medicine and insurers might not cover the costs.
The FDA has a compassionate use program, which lets physicians apply, and receive FDA approval, to let a seriously ill patient receive an experimental drug.
Supporters of Right to Try laws say that process is onerous and time-consuming. And they argue patients who are terminally ill should have this resource at their disposal to try medicines that could save their lives, particularly because the drug approval process is often lengthy.
“It’s hard to think of a better way to start the new year than by delivering hope to millions of terminally ill patients and their families by passing Right to Try legislation,” Freedom Partners Executive Vice President Nathan Nascimento said in a statement.
“Congress is at the one yard line of approving this common-sense legislation that will make it easier for terminally ill patients to access increased medication and treatment options that could make a difference. The last step is to move the legislation out of committee and it will pass.”