President Trump Signs 'Right to Try' Legislation Allowing Patients Access To Unapproved Drugs


On Wednesday, President Trump signed a bill giving patients with terminal illnesses access to experimental drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, known as the “right to try” bill, was passed by Congress last week, receiving widespread Republican approval.

Trump has shown support for the legislation in the past, including during his State of the Union address on Jan. 30. “People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure,” he said. “I want to give them a chance right here at home. It’s time for Congress to give these wonderful, incredible Americans the right to try.”

The legislation will make unapproved drugs currently undergoing clinical trials available to patients with life-threatening conditions. Patients must have exhausted all other treatment pathways and do not qualify for a clinical trial.

Right to try, which passed 250-169, has divided patients and advocacy groups. Proponents of the bill believe it will allow patients access to potentially life-saving treatments earlier without the time-consuming approach to approving drugs. Other non-FDA-approved drugs include those available in other countries but not the U.S.

“Terminal timelines are measured in months, weeks and days. Not decades,” the Goldwater Institute, a public policy think tank, wrote on its site. “Many potentially life-saving treatments awaiting approval in the U.S. are already available overseas, and have been for years. Sadly, most Americans cannot afford to seek treatment abroad. Many are left without hope.”

A letter signed by 40 patient groups opposing the legislation states the bill will not increase access to experimental drugs by removing the FDA. The FDA already has an expanded access system that allows patients to try experimental drugs currently in clinical trials — 99.7 percent of these requests are approved.

Removing the FDA’s approval could result in more patient harm than good, the coalition wrote. Most denials for experimental drugs come from the drug companies for “reasonable” concerns. These concerns include patient harm, not enough supply for patients not enrolled in the clinical trial or costs.

Opponents also say right to try does not prevent insurance companies from denying coverage of experimental drugs nor does it prevent drug companies from setting prices too high for patients.

“One of the greatest harms caused by this and all right to try legislation is that patients and their advocates believe that these laws give them new rights that may help save their lives,” two opinion contributors wrote for The Hill. “They don’t, nor can they, and the false promise that they hold out is shameful.”

Photo via Getty Images/tupungato and scyther5


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Illness

A picture of the clouds in the sky, tinted with darkness and orange from a sunset or sunrise.

Why Chronic Illness Complicates My Answer When I'm Asked, 'What Do You Need?'

One of this month’s Mighty writing prompts focuses on the question, “What do I need?” This seems to be a simple enough question, but possibly with a complex, multi-layered answer. One way in which we have come to know about human needs is through “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” usually neatly depicted as layers of a [...]
A woman holding a coffee mug, with tea inside it - as well as thyme herb, and lemon slices.

6 Coping Mechanisms That Help My Mental and Physical Illnesses

I sit at my desk before work, eyes locked on the wallpaper of Rivendell from “The Lord of the Rings,” my idea of an exotic island getaway, on the computer screen. Being the first one of the department at work has many benefits; one being time to do my cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises. I [...]
A teacher helping a group of students.

The Prominent Reason I Want to Go to School While Sick

Isn’t it odd how we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s taken away? For me it was like the carpet was ripped from underneath me and I was forced to lie flat on my back as my body went into fight mode. OK, not that dramatic, but reality is I lie in bed as [...]
"you know nothing, jon snow"

17 Memes That Nail What It's Like to Receive Unsolicited Medical Advice

When you live with chronic illness, hearing advice or recommendations from others can often be part of the territory. Sometimes it’s friends or family members who mean well and genuinely want to do whatever they can to help, but other times it may just be someone trying to sell you something. Either way, it can [...]