Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick

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‘Right to Try’ legislation becomes law

Jun 6, 2018
In The News

Bucks County residents Frank Mongiello and Matthew Bellina joined President Donald Trump at the White House Wednesday as he signed the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2018. The legislation was a companion bill to one proposed last year by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown.

Bucks County residents Frank Mongiello and Matthew Bellina joined President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday as he signed legislation bearing their names that will give people battling terminal illnesses easier access to experimental drugs and treatments.

The legislation, known as the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2018, was a companion bill to one proposed last year by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown. It was approved by the Senate in August, and passed the House last week.

Mongiello, of Lower Makefield, and Bellina, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot from Northampton, both have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease that attacks the central nervous system. They have advocated for the right to try law alongside Fitzpatrick and testified in support of legislation at the state and federal levels.

“Today, we witnessed American history when the President signed our Right to Try bill into law. After years of debate and relentless work by Right to Try advocates around the nation, American patients and families facing an unimaginable terminal illness now have the opportunity to fight for their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement Wednesday. “They deserve the chance to try whatever option is available to fight for their life. For patients who might not qualify for certain clinical trials, or who have exhausted all their options, Right to Try opens the door to potentially lifesaving treatments.”

The FDA allows terminal patients to apply for early access to a promising treatment, but the process isn’t far reaching enough and it can be complicated, time consuming and expensive, Fitzpatrick has argued.

At least 38 states, including Pennsylvania, have passed similar legislation, and Trump has expressed his support of a federal law as well.

“People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure. I want to give them a chance right here at home,” he said in the State of the Union address earlier this year.

Opponents have argued, however, that the FDA’s approval process is there for a reason. The law does not change the process, but it allows people with terminal illnesses to try drugs or treatments that have completed the first phase, which is when safety is tested, instead of having to be accepted into clinical trials or wait for full approval, which can take years.

Doctors must certify that other options are exhausted or not available, and the law ensures they, as well as patients and drug and device manufacturers, do not assume any additional liability.