Democrats blocked the House from passing the Right to Try Act on Tuesday, which would let sick patients gain access to treatments the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve.
The House failed to pass the bill 259-140. Mostly Republicans and few Democrats voted for the legislation. The Right to Try Act needed a two-thirds majority, or 266 votes, for the House to pass the legislation.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX) said in a statement:
We are incredibly disappointed in our Democrat colleagues for not supporting this carefully crafted bill, delivering increased patient access to investigational drugs for those that have no other treatment options through the existing compassionate use program as well as a new alternative pathway. For months we sought to strike the right balance by allowing patients greater access to these unapproved treatments and therapies while also ensuring proper patient protections. This bill does just that, with more robust informed consent and real-time reporting, as well as requiring FDA notification of participation. This bill is fair, reasonable, and is deserving of Democratic support.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a statement after the bill failed to pass through the House:
By rejecting this bill, House Democrats have tried to strip hope away from those who need it the most. These are people like young Jordan McLinn who, in his battle with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, was told he couldn’t have access to medication that might save his life. But Jordan and his devoted mother, Laura, did not give up hope. They and so many other people won’t give up hope now either.
For people who face terminal illnesses and a future of succumbing to their illness on the one hand or the hope of a cure on the other, we cannot let bureaucratic hurdles be the only obstacle holding them back. Their desire to live and to beat the odds is more important than checking all the boxes. Americans are great not because of bureaucracy, but because when others say the future is hopeless, we never give up hope. We are great because when others give up, we try and try again. The House will not let this be the end. We will try again, pass legislation, and bring hope to those whose only desire is the right to try to live.
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.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.”
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 in 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.”
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 argue that the legislation would remove important FDA protections.
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.”