WASHINGTON, D.C. – Right to Try Legislation passed the House Tuesday evening with a bipartisan vote of 250-169. The bill – The Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act [S.204], a Senate companion bill to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s Right to Try legislation, follows months of legislative efforts and improves access to experimental treatments for patients with terminal illnesses. The bill now awaits the President’s signature.
“After years of debate, the House of Representatives sent the President a bipartisan bill that gives American patients and families facing an unimaginable situation the opportunity to fight for their lives or for the lives of their loved ones. For those patients caught between the traditional drug approval delays, a clinical trial process for which they do not qualify, and limited time, the Right to Try gives patients, like Matt Bellina and Frank Mongiello, a new pathway to potentially lifesaving treatments,” said Fitzpatrick. “I am thankful for the relentless work of my colleagues Representative Biggs and Senator Johnson, and all Right to Try advocates who have spent countless hours to see this finally get done. I am especially grateful for the advocacy of Vice President Pence.”
“I have no illusion that this will solve the entire problem but it is absolutely a step in the right direction and a step we need to take now. I know that it is probably too late for me, and I have made my peace with that. I need to know before I die that if my children find themselves in this unenviable position, that this nation that I proudly served will respect their liberties and their right to make their own decisions about their medical treatments,” said Right to Try Advocate Matt Bellina, during testimony before the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health.
Last year, the Senate unanimously passed The Right to Try Act of 2017 [S.204]. Fitzpatrick introduced the companion bill to S.204 in the House. Following months of negotiations, the House passed a slightly different version of the Right to Try in March 2018, but failed in the Senate when Senator Johnson tried to pass it by unanimous consent.
Advancing this policy has been a long-time priority for Fitzpatrick and Vice President Pence, who signed Indiana’s Right to Try law while serving as governor. It has also been a priority for President Trump, who called for the bill’s passage in his State of the Union Address earlier this year.
The Administration announced support this week for Right to Try [S.204] in its current form.
Although the FDA has a program that allows terminal patients to apply for early access to a promising treatment, Right to Try is needed because the FDA compassionate-use process isn’t far reaching enough. While 99-percent of Expanded Access applications are approved, the application process is complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Only about 1,200 people a year make it through the application process.
Right to Try does not undo the FDA approval process, but provides a potential lifeline for those with a terminal diagnosis who cannot wait. Physicians must certify that other options are exhausted or not available and all products must have completed FDA Phase I (safety) testing to prevent “snake oil salesmen” and other bad actors. Moreover, the legislation addresses concerns which could prevent its successful utilization by ensuring patients, doctors, and manufacturers do not assume any additional liability under this act.
Nearly 40 states, including Pennsylvania, have signed into law their own Right to Try legislation.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI): “Terminally ill patients—and their loved ones—deserve the opportunity to try whatever option is available that may offer a chance for a longer life. For patients who may not qualify for certain trails—or who have tried all other options—this bill will allow them to access experimental treatments and therapies. I want to recognize Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Andy Biggs, as well as Chairman Greg Walden, for all their work on this issue. Fundamentally, this is about honoring the will of patients and their families.”
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): “Representative Fitzpatrick has delivered what most thought was impossible – the ‘right-to-try’ potentially lifesaving treatments for seriously ill Americans. Brian’s hard work and leadership have sent this bill to President Trump’s desk – ushering in an era of potential medical breakthroughs and hope for millions of Americans.”
- PA State Representative Bob Godshall, author of PA state Right to Try Law: “Faced with certain death, terminally ill patients do not have the luxury of time and often exhaust all available options in the quest to stay alive while treatments are being developed. Right-To-Try gives these patients hope and the ability to seek treatments that could save them or prolong their lives. Since Gov. Tom Wolf signed my bill into law last fall, I have received numerous phone calls and letters from people all over Pennsylvania, thanking me for my efforts and sharing their experiences on how this law is benefitting them or their loved ones. Terminally ill people nationwide should have the right to try experimental treatments in an attempt to save their lives. What we have done here in Pennsylvania and 37 other states should be national policy. I support Congressman Fitzpatrick’s efforts in this regard.”
- Jim Worthington, Owner NAC and Have a Heart Foundation: “It is with great excitement and satisfaction that we traveled to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 22nd to see Right to Try go to a vote in the House of Representatives. I speak on behalf of not only myself, but also Linda Mitchell at the NAC and, of course, Matt and Caitlin Bellina who have been among the most effective patient advocate voices on ‘the Hill’ for Right to Try over the past two years. The NAC Have a Heart Foundation has been behind this bill by organizing resources and facilitating communication among patient advocates, national support groups, members of congress and the administration, including Vice President Pence and President Trump himself. A huge debt of gratitude must go to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick who introduced this bill in congress and has been its champion from the very start.”
- Victor Riches, president of the Goldwater Institute: “Congressman Fitzpatrick has shown that he values the lives of terminal Americans over politics and special interest groups by helping lead the charge for Right to Try in the US House. Millions of terminally ill Americans stand to benefit from this law and they will have leaders like Rep. Fitzpatrick to thank."