A controversial bill that would grant terminal patients access to experimental therapies failed yesterday in the House. Although the “right to try” effort didn’t muster up enough votes to send it to the Senate, majority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a statement that the fight wasn’t over.
“We will try again, pass legislation, and bring hope to those whose only desire is the right to try to live,” he tweeted.
The House voted 259-140, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass under the suspended rules.
Republicans argued that patients who are terminally ill deserve the chance to try unapproved therapies that could help keep them alive. But Democrats have pointed out that the effort could give false hope to patients and that circumventing the FDA could be dangerous.
Although there are fierce patient advocates lobbying on behalf of the right-to-try movement, there are also a number of patient advocacy groups arguing against the measure. Earlier this week, more than 75 organizations sent a letter to members of both parties in opposition of the bill.
Opponents of the bill have also noted that the FDA already has a program to give terminally-ill patients access to unapproved therapies – the compassionate use program.
Supporters of the bill counter by arguing that patients should be able to try any drug that could help them and that the bill, which requires a drug to have passed a Phase I trial, is safe.
The president threw his support behind the right-to-try movement earlier this year at his State of the Union speech.
“We also believe that patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives,” Trump said, according to STAT. “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 is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.'”