This is not going to help anyone. In fact, it very likely will hurt people who are dying. While the idea behind this seems to the uninformed to be an interesting idea, the possibility of dying people taking drugs that may cause greater suffering to them is very real. The Trump Administration attempt to undermine the FDA is clearly underway. The beneficiaries of this are large drug companies.
President Donald Trump signed into law the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, which had been opposed by a coalition of more than 100 non-governmental organizations. The law permits terminally ill patients who have exhausted approved treatment options and who are unable to participate in a clinical trial of an investigational new drug to receive the drug after it has passed only the first of three phases of testing required for marketing approval. Phase 1 testing requires only 20 to 80 healthy volunteers to determine a drug’s most frequent side effects and how it is metabolized or excreted. While it can reveal unacceptable toxicity, Phase 1 does not establish effectiveness. Most drugs that move past Phase I testing do not get approved for marketing because they are found to be unsafe and/or ineffective.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has “compassionate use” programs with safeguards that enable people with serious and life-threatening diseases to receive investigational medical devices, drugs, and biologics outside of clinical trials. The agency sometimes requires dosing and safety improvements but grants 99% of requests it receives and enables treatment to begin within 30 days (or five working days after emergency requests). The new law removes FDA’s consultative role in ensuring safety and fails to ensure informed consent requirements. It also “limits the liability of a sponsor, manufacturer, prescriber, or dispenser that provides, or declines to provide, an eligible investigational drug to an eligible patient in accordance with the bill.”
Senator Ron Johnson, who sponsored the legislation, said recently that its goal was to “diminish the FDA’s power over people’s lives, not increase it.” It was based on a model bill drafted by the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank that opposes the FDA’s regulatory power. The Koch brothers-associated, right-wing groups Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity lobbied for the legislation. Similar legislation has already been enacted in 38 states. David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D. recently wrote:
Right-to-try is only a little about helping patients. It’s far more about dismantling the FDA and giving drug and device manufacturers more freedom to market drugs and devices with much less testing. [Gorski D. The very worst version of the sham known as “right-to-try” is poised to become law. Science-Based Medicine, May 21, 2018]