WASHINGTON, D.C. – Right to Try legislation introduced by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) passed the House Wednesday evening by a bipartisan vote of 267-149. The bill – the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2018 [H.R. 5247] – follows months of negotiating and legislative efforts and improves access to experimental treatments for patients with terminal diseases or conditions.
“After years of debate, discussion and negotiation, tonight, the House of Representatives showed what has always been clear to me and those I represent: that the Right to Try is a common sense, bipartisan measure that gives American patients and families facing an unimaginable situation the opportunity to fight for their lives or the lives of their loved one. For those patients caught between the traditional drug approval delays, a clinical trial process for which they do not qualify, and limited time, this Right to Try simply establishes the freedom for patients to try therapies in situations where the benefits far outweigh the risks,” said Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the ALS Caucus. “With the House’s vote, both chambers have now showed that Right to Try can pass with bipartisan support. I stand with my colleagues at the forefront of this issue, Representative Biggs and Senator Johnson, in demanding that Right to Try – in any form – make it to the president’s desk to be signed into law.”
From ALS to Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, over one million Americans die from a terminal disease each year and thousands more are diagnosed. While ‘compassionate-use exceptions’ exist, they are only granted to about 1,000 patients annually; many patients simply run out of time before they can qualify or before the FDA’s approval process completes. Right to Try allows for potentially life-saving access to care.
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. The federal legislation ensures that the federal government - and the FDA, specifically - does not interfere with state laws.
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.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI): “I am proud of the work Brian has done to give terminally ill patients and their families hope for the future. The passage of the Right to Try Act resulted from his hard work and determination.”
- Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ): “I am pleased that the House of Representatives passed Right to Try today, giving terminally ill patients the freedom to save their lives. This was a bipartisan cause and evidence that Republicans and Democrats can rally together to better the lives of our fellow Americans. I’m thankful for all of the leaders and advocates who championed this policy, including President Trump, Vice President Pence, Senator Johnson, Congressman Fitzpatrick, and Chairman Walden. It was an honor to help lead this effort, and I look forward to its Senate passage.”
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): “Americans persevere. It’s who we are. When people face life-threatening illnesses and there’s a hope for a cure, they don’t give up hope. And the government should not take that hope away. After House Democrats blocked Representative Fitzpatrick’s right to try legislation, we knew we couldn’t give up either. Too many people whose only desire was to take every chance they could to overcome their illness and save their lives were depending on us. So we tried again, and we passed this legislation. Representative Fitzpatrick deserves credit for imitating those he has always tried to help by never giving up hope."
- Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR): “Patients facing terminal diagnoses deserve the right to try experimental treatments that might just save their lives, and nobody has been a stronger advocate for these patients than Rep. Fitzpatrick. This legislation provides hope for patients with nowhere left to turn, and I thank Rep. Fitzpatrick for his dedication throughout the months we spent working to strike the right balance with this bill.”
- 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."