Opinion: Andy Biggs and Brian Fitzpatrick: America needs the Right to Try, before it's too late
Each year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. These people are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, grandpas and grandmas. More than anything else, these individuals hope to determine their own future.
One thing these people don’t have is time.
It is imperative that Congress pass the Right to Try Act immediately, allowing millions of Americans to have the freedom to fight for their health. Time is of the essence.
The Right to Try Act merely allows terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other options to try medications that have passed basic Food and Drug Administration safety protocols but not completed the full, multiyear approval process. This bill safeguards any pharmaceutical company that may wish to participate in Right to Try, but it in no way requires participation, nor does it impose a mandate on anyone. Instead, this legislation gives patients who have no other options a chance.
Right to Try legislation has received overwhelming support nationally, becoming law in 38 states. In 2014, Arizona’s ballot initiative passed with 80 percent of the popular vote. Just last year, Gov. Tom Wolf, D-Penn., signed Right to Try into law after that measure unanimously passed both chambers of the General Assembly. In fact, in these highly polarized times, it is difficult to think of any other policy initiative that has come even close to receiving this much popular support.
State legislation can only go so far, however, because of federal preemption. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has not acted despite the fact that a Senate version of the Right to Try Act (S. 204) passed that chamber last year by unanimous consent — an action that indicates clear bipartisan support.
Given the success of the Right to Try Act in the Senate, the delay in the House is inexplicable, which is why we are urging House leadership to bring S. 204 to the floor of the House as soon as possible. Once the House passes S. 204, it can go directly to President Trump’s desk for a signature and begin helping people immediately. On the other hand, if the House were to waste time passing its own separate and amended version of the Right to Try Act, we would unnecessarily delay potentially lifesaving medicines for patients who have no time to spare — and possibly end up with legislation that significantly waters down the original bill.
We simply cannot accept inaction, endless delays, and half-measures. Vice President Mike Pence stated last month that passing Right to Try is “about restoring hope and giving patients with life-threatening diseases a fighting chance. Let’s get this DONE.” President Trump, in his very first State of the Union address, stated that “people who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure. It is time for Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.’”
We wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments. The millions of patients across the nation who are fighting for their lives each and every day deserve nothing less. Let’s pass the Right to Try Act today.
Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican, represents Arizona's fifth district in Congress. You can follow him on Twitter: @RepAndyBiggsAZ. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania's eighth district in Congress. You can follow him on Twitter:@RepBrianFitz