The state Assembly Health Committee passed the Right to Try bill Wednesday, which will broaden terminally ill patients’ access to experimental drugs. The bill was passed in a bipartisan vote.
Supporters of the bill are pleased with its potential to help terminally ill patients who have nowhere else to turn. Among the supporters is Rep. James Edming, R-Glen Flora.
“I am a proud supporter of the Right to Try legislation because these folks who have exhausted all other options should have the right to try something that could improve their quality of life and give them more time with their loved ones,” Edming said.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, supports the bill because she says it provides a source of hope for patients in desperate situations.
“I support it because like so many, I’ve known people with terminal illnesses who don’t get into clinical trials,” Taylor said. “I do think that [the bill] could give people more options. This gives patients hope.”
Critics of the bill, including Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, find it unnecessary and potentially more cumbersome than the process already in place to gain access to experimental drugs.
“We already have in place the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] expanded access program where people petition and they can get access to the drugs,” Kolste said. “I think the proposal now is almost more onerous than going through the FDA.”
The bill will require patients to show proof of their illnesses and evidence that they have pursued various other courses of action, along with recommendations for experimental medication.
The new process for accessing experimental drugs is not the only concern of critics, however. Dissenters take issue with the experimental nature of the drugs and worry about prescribing them too quickly.
The Wisconsin Medical Society, the largest physician advocacy group in the state, opposes the bill. They fear it has potential to harm patients by circumventing the process currently in place.
Kolste also takes issue with the health implications of the bill.
“It could disrupt trials. We need results on drugs. The pharmaceuticals have a duty to inform any adverse events that were recorded,” Kolste said. “This is about science and patients.”
The bill now moves out of Committee and to the Assembly floor. The Assembly plans to meet next week.
Gov. Scott Walker has expressed interest in the idea, according to the Associated Press.