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Last hope: Giving patients a right to try

May 23. 2018 11:52PM

When terminally-ill patients are out of traditional options, the federal government should get out of the way, and let them try experimental drugs.

That is the purpose behind S. 204, known as the Right to Try Act. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests new drugs for both safety and effectiveness, and this second step can take years.

Right-to-try advocates argue that once a drug has been deemed safe by the FDA, terminal patients should be allowed to use it. The drug may not work, but for those with nothing to lose, it’s worth a shot.

New Hampshire passed its own right-to-try law in 2016, signed by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan. Gov. Chris Sununu this week led a group of nine governors urging Congress to pass the federal bill.

The Senate approved S. 204 last year by unanimous consent. Tuesday, in the House, Rep. Ann Kuster was one of 22 Democrats who joined the Republican majority in voting to send the right-to-try legislation to President Trump’s desk. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter voted against it.

The FDA has an expanded access program that lets terminally-ill patients ask permission to use investigational drugs when approved medicines have been exhausted. The agency approves almost all of the applications submitted, but this still requires that patients seek Washington’s permission.

The default setting should be giving patients greater control over their own care.

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