The USA Patient Network Asks Senators to Oppose the Right to Try Act

February 24, 2017

Dear Senator _______

 

The USA Patient Network is disappointed that you have co-sponsored the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act (S. 204), introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).  We want to explain why the bill would be harmful to patients and we respectfully ask you to reconsider your support and consider opposing the bill instead.

 

Many patients and policymakers mistakenly believe that this national law is needed to give patients access to experimental treatments.  That isn’t true, because patients who are not able to participate in clinical trials already have access to experimental drugs through FDA’s Expanded Access Program.  That existing program is better than S. 204, because the existing program enables patients to have access only if there is some evidence that the experimental drug might do more good than harm for the patient, and the doctor requests it.

 

S. 204 is much more dangerous than existing state right-to-try laws or the current FDA program because it would enable companies to sell drugs that are at a very preliminary stage of research – before there is good reason to think it can help a patient. It also protects the company from any liability for selling dangerous treatments, even if they knew that the treatment was unlikely to help patients.  Disreputable companies, such as those currently operating at some clinics in Mexico, could convince desperate patients to waste their life savings on treatments that don’t work at all and might even kill them.

 

As patients, we know full well what it is like to be desperate for a treatment.  The FDA’s current program fills that need while providing protections for patients so that they will have at least some chance of benefitting from the experimental treatment.  And, since the treatments are almost always free through the FDA program, desperate patients won’t be exploited.

 

Many physicians and reputable patient organizations oppose the law because:

—There is no evidence that it would save lives or help patients.

—Some patients might be persuaded to buy experimental drugs instead of drugs that are proven to work.

 

The USA Patient Network is an independent national network of patient advocates from all over the United States who are dedicated to improving the safety, effectiveness, and affordability of medical treatments.  We urge you to consider how these major problems with S. 204 will put patients in harm’s way, and ask you to withdraw your support for the bill.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Members of the USA Patient Network

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