January 18, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence today reaffirmed his strong support for Right to Try, taking to Twitter in calling on Congress to pass a federal version of the law which would give terminally ill patients the right to try investigational medications that have passed the FDA’s Phase 1 safety trial.
“Yesterday I met with @SGottliebFDA [FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb] on the importance of passing a Right to Try law. It’s about restoring hope and giving patients with life threatening diseases a fighting chance. Let’s get this DONE,” he wrote to his 5.47 million Twitter followers.
In August, federal Right to Try legislation passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous support, but it’s still under consideration in the House.
Vice President Pence has long been a fervent Right to Try supporter. As governor of Indiana, he signed that state’s Right to Try law in March 2015, making it one of the 38 states that have passed their own Right to Try legislation.
Also this morning, on the floor of the U.S. House, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks spoke out in favor of Right to Try, calling for a vote on the federal bill. Rep. Brooks told his fellow members that the FDA compassionate use program is simply not sufficient to give many terminally ill people the hope they need:
Fewer than 3 percent of terminally ill patients in America have access to investigational treatments through clinical trials. While the Food and Drug Administration grants compassionate use waivers, meant to allow terminal patients access to experimental drugs, only about 1,500 waivers were granted in 2016. What are other terminally ill Americans to do? Nothing? Just waste away and die without a fight?
Put simply, he said, Right to Try gives the terminally ill “a better chance to live.” (You can view Rep. Brooks’ full House floor speech here.)
This week’s calls to pass the federal Right to Try bill haven’t been limited to just the halls of government: Right to Try supporters are making their case in top news outlets. On Sunday, Donald J. Mihalek, executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation, and Michael Smith, vice president of Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatments, wrote an op-ed for The Hill that made it clear that the FDA’s compassionate use program is just not enough, as Rep. Brooks did on the House floor. Mihalek and Smith urged the House to vote on Right to Try “so Americans no longer have to be victimized by antiquated technology, profit margins or whatever excuse the system creates.”
A vote on the federal Right to Try bill has yet to be set, but as that day approaches, a growing number of Washington influencers are standing up for the right of terminally ill patients to try to save their own lives—and this support may put this important, needed piece of legislation over the finish line.