Senate urged to bend drug rules for terminally ill patients

Terminally ill patients should have access to unapproved experimental drugs through  “right-to-try” legislation, members of an Arizona-based think tank told a Senate panel last Thursday.

A right-to-try law would allow terminally ill patients to use drugs that have passed the first step of the Food and Drug Administration's investigation process, but are still in clinical trials.

This type of law would help patients more than the FDA's current “compassionate use” rules for experimental drugs, Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Goldwater Institute has been at the forefront of the right-to-try movement.

Twenty-four states have passed similar legislation, Olsen said. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) expressed support of the legislation during the hearing.

Opponents said patients' time would be better spent using approved drugs, rather than “chasing expensive and unavailable experimental drugs.”