House to vote Today on ‘right to try’ drug bill

House to vote Tuesday on 'right to try' drug bill

The House will vote today on a newly released Right to Try Act aimed at letting very sick patients request access to treatments the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t yet approved.

The legislation is a priority for the White House.

President Trump called on Congress to pass the bill in his State of the Union address in January. Vice President Pence is also a staunch supporter of right to try laws, signing a bill when he was governor of Indiana.

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders had been working to change the bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent over the summer.

Supporters of the measure, such as groups backed by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch, had been urging the House to pass the Senate version, fearing changes could make it harder for the bill to get to Trump’s desk.

The new version will indeed have to be sent back to the Senate, and in announcing the Tuesday vote, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) noted in a statement Sunday that “following its passage, I look forward to swift Senate action so more Americans facing dire circumstances can find some light in their darkest moments.”

Over the last few months, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) had been clear that changes to the legislation — a revised bill which was unveiled in a press release early Saturday morning — were coming.

Nearly 40 patient advocacy groups had argued that the measure would “likely do more harm than good” in a letter in early February. They said the Food and Drug Administration’s current regulatory framework is meant to protect patients, and that the FDA has a program that approves nearly all requests of patients to try an experimental drug.

Proponents of the measure had countered that terminally ill patients should have every tool at their disposal to try a drug to potentially help them, and that the decision to do so should be between a doctor and a patient, not the patient and the government.

The House version of the legislation appears to further define which patients can request access to an experimental drug. To be eligible, a patient must have a disease or a condition with a “reasonable likelihood that death will occur within a matter of months” or would result in “significant irreversible morbidity that is likely to lead to severely premature death.”

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