House to Vote on Right to Try Legislation on Tuesday

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AP/Yves Logghe

The House will vote on Tuesday to pass the Right to Try Act to let sick patients gain access to treatments the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve.

President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass the legislation during his State of the Union address in January. Vice President Mike Pence also signed a “right to try” law when he was governor of Indiana.

During his State of the Union speech, Trump said that he believes “patients with terminal conditions, terminal illness, should have access to experimental treatment immediately that could potentially save their lives.”

The Senate passed its version of the Right to Try Act earlier this summer; the House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) has worked to make changes to the Senate-passed bill.

Walden told reporters in February, “As you know, some of the advocacy groups have actually been concerned about the language that came over from the Senate and are not full-throated in support of it, and so we want to make sure that we listen to them, and that we get this in a way that works for everybody.”

Supporters of the Right to Try Act believe that the legislation would give sick patients every option available to help them and that the decision to use unapproved FDA medicine should remain between a doctor and a patient, while detractors of the bill believe argue that the legislation would remove important FDA protections.

Chairman Walden and health subcommittee chairman, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), said in a statement on Sunday that, “the bill has been a long-time coming, but in striking the right balance for patients and their safety, the House is on track to deliver hopeful news for patients desperately seeking the right to try investigational treatments and therapies.”

Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, remains opposed to the Right to Try Act.

Pallone said a congressional hearing in October, “I am concerned that the legislation being considered could expose seriously ill patients to greater harm instead of the greater access that they are looking for.”

In a statement on Sunday, Freedom Partners vice president Nathan Nascimento called on lawmakers to “take a critical step towards giving every American the right to try. With no time to waste, we encourage every member to support this measure.”

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