On Tuesday, President Donald Trump urged Congress to pass an important piece of healthcare legislation that could help millions of Americans. During his first State of the Union address, the president lent his support to the “Right to Try” bill for terminally ill patients, and it would be a fork in the eye of big government bureaucrats who prohibit sick people from trying anything to stay alive.
Right to Try would allow patients to sample experimental drugs, treatments, and procedures that have not been given the stamp of approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With the guidance of their physicians, patients would be permitted to contact a drug manufacturer to apply for a therapy that has gone through the agency’s preliminary testing and minimal clinical trial.
Last year, the Senate unanimously voted in favor of Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)’s legislation. But it has since stalled in the Congress. Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) is the lead House sponsor, and he has been trying to get a vote on the floor.
The bill has been endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence, and it has been advocated by billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch. Now President Trump is a believer, telling Republicans and Democrats:
“We also believe that patients with terminal conditions, terminal illness, should have access to experimental treatment immediately that could potentially save their lives.
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. It’s time for Congress to give these wonderful, incredible Americans the ‘right to try.’”
A Brief Look at Right to Try
Proponents argue that these laws give medical decisions back to local and state governments.
Opponents have retorted that it undermines the FDA’S authority and that it could enable drug companies to decrease their investments in patient safety moving forward. In October, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned that Johnson’s bill would weaken its drug approval process.
Critics maintain that the FDA offers a so-called compassionate-use program that facilitates doctors to inquire about receiving FDA approval for sick people to access drugs still under investigation. But experts note how complex and tiresome the entire process is.
Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) thinks the law “could expose seriously ill patients to greater harm instead of the greater access that they are looking for.” In other words, Rep. Pallone thinks he knows better than you and therefore should have the power to limit your options.
Earlier this month, a handful of Koch-supported organizations launched an advertising campaign that promoted patient access to experimental drugs. At the end of one of the television commercials, the ad addresses Congress: “Congress, give patients a chance. Pass right to try.”
Starlee Coleman, a senior policy adviser for the libertarian think-tank Goldwater Institute, lauded Trump’s remarks in his first SOTU speech:
“That’s an incredibly strong endorsement and demonstrates how much of a priority this is for the administration. We certainly think that that puts pressure on the House to take action on the bill that’s been sitting with them for several months now.”
In January, Pence tweeted that he is working with the FDA to find common ground:
Today, there are 38 states across the country that have implemented a right-to-try law. Some of them include Alabama, California, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas. Colorado became the very first state in 2014 to pass a similar bill.
That said, if the president really wants to aid “wonderful, incredible Americans,” then he should take it one extra step: abolish the FDA.
End the FDA – or Limit Its Power
We are told that without the FDA, or any other government agency, pharmaceutical companies would flood the market with unsafe, hazardous, and life-threatening products. Because these corporations only care about profit, bureaucrats contend, they will abandon the clinical trials, the safety protocols, and the myriad of other checks and balances. (This is a ridiculous idea because it would be a public relations nightmare, sales would collapse, and a competitor would gain market share.)
It is a noble cause, and these officials may have the right intentions. But for desperate individuals, and even smart consumers, it is a bureaucratic nightmare that costs lives.
To get a new drug approved by the FDA, it costs anywhere between $300 million and $1 billio and can take as long as 10 years. While the drug was getting scrutinized, individuals with fatal illnesses could have been treated, and their lives could have been extended.
In the stupendous book Why Government Doesn’t Work, former presidential candidate Harry Browne cites one example where the FDA failed and harmed thousands of Americans:
“The FDA approved propranolol for limited use in 1968 but refused to allow it to be used for angina or hypertension. Then it reversed itself and approved the drug for angina in 1973 – and then for hypertension in 1976. A study by Arthur D. Little, Inc. estimated that roughly 10,000 Americans died for lack of propranolol every year the FDA prevent their doctors from treating them with it.”
Odious. But that isn’t all.
In the 1980s, Ron Woodruff, a heterosexual Texan, contracted the HIV virus. Desperate to find a remedy or treatment for the disease, he discovers a drug called AZT that may offer a cure. Unfortunately, the FDA prohibited Woodruff from accessing AZT, which prompts him to buy stolen AZT, but stops when there is no longer a local supply. He travels to Mexico and finds a doctor who uses vitamins, minerals, and natural supplements to improve people with HIV/AIDS – the individual elements are OK, but the entire treatment is rejected by the FDA. Woodruff then buys the individual components in Mexico, and sells them in the U.S. for profit, saving a lot of people, but is eventually harassed by the government. By the end of the film, Woodruff sues the FDA to be granted the right to determine his own medical treatment, but to no avail: the judge rules in favor of the FDA.
Does this sound familiar? It was the true story behind the 2013 motion picture Dallas Buyers Club. It highlighted the risks of crony capitalism, the dangers of big government, and the benefits of entrepreneurship.
Most recently, there was a great deal of controversy over Mylan’s EpiPen. Because the price for a pack of two spiked from $100 to $600 over 10 years, politicians sprang into action, holding hearings and blaming it on greedy corporations and the failure of capitalism. But the real culprit for this was the FDA.
A competing firm would intervene and offer customers the same product but at a lower price. Unfortunately, the FDA’s costly red tape – Mylan also has many patents and a comfortable relationship with insurance companies – kept competitors from entering the market. Though epinephrine is inexpensive, there are intricacies when creating the auto-injecting devices, which are owned by Mylan. Companies have attempted in recent years to enter the market, only to face resistance from the FDA. For instance, a French pharmaceutical firm sold an electronic device to administer the drug, but it had to be recalled. Teva Pharmaceutical endeavored to sell a generic epinephrine injector, but it was blocked by the FDA. Another provider struggled to offer consumers pre-filled syringes because the FDA acted as another roadblock. The FDA has also made it illegal for pharmacies to replace generic alternatives with the EpiPen.
These are only a few instances of how the FDA has been responsible for the despoliation of moribund Americans.
Give Patients the Right to Try
There is a new movement sweeping the globe: medically-assisted death. It isn’t prevalent in the U.S. – just six states have legalized the procedure – but euthanasia is becoming more common in places like Canada and The Netherlands.Indeed, it is the right for someone to take their own lives, though a physician should have the right to refuse to partake in such a practice. But shouldn’t it also be the right for a terminally ill patient to experiment with unapproved pharmaceuticals and treatments?
When you know that you are dying, you will cling to any hope to survive. Whether it is an untested drug in a laboratory or an age-old procedure in South Asia, you want to seek anything that could heal you. It is your right to do so, or at least it should be.
The FDA and politicians believe they know better than you do. They also purport that the marketplace would be filled with harmful drugs if it weren’t for their wisdom and guidance. Both concepts are poppycock. Americans should always have the right to do or try anything as long as they are not hurting anyone else. This is the principle America was founded on. Why stop now?
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