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'Right-to-Try' Legislation Gives Terminally-Ill Patients New Hope

by Carl Wicklander, published
The Illinois General Assembly recently passed legislation that may open the gates for new medical treatments for patients who have received terminal diagnoses.

Introduced earlier this year by State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), House Bill 1335, also known as "Right-to-Try," allows terminally-ill patients to try new drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since drugs can take years to get the FDA's stamp of approval, Harris said the bill is a "last ray of hope" for those who have exhausted all other treatment options.

The legislation passed the Illinois House 114-1, and the Senate unanimously passed its version, SB 29, on Thursday.

Under this legislation, insurance companies would not be compelled to cover investigational and experimental drugs that have passed at least the first of three stages of clinical trials. Manufacturers would not be required to provide unapproved medications. It also protects doctors from being sued when obtaining such drugs for patients who desire them.

The legislation may also represent a loss of confidence in the FDA. As previously reported on IVN, the administration, which is also tasked with regulating 80 percent of the country's food supply, has failed to review over 1,000 ingredients put into foods sold in American grocery stores.

Praising the bipartisan nature of the effort, Illinois Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, noted:

"Right-to-Try laws empower patients whose lives are on the line to become informed of the potential benefits and risks of all treatment options in order to determine the plan of care they feel is best for them." - Illinois Policy
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Kurt Altman of the Goldwater Institute, who advised the Illinois Legislature on these bills, said

However, not everyone supports the proposed measure.

Although acknowledging that these decisions should always be up to a patient and their physician, Dr. Christopher Daugherty of the University of Chicago's MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics said, "I think it's far more likely that we'll do more harm than good" with this type of legislation.

If "Right-to-Try" becomes law, Illinois would become the sixth state to pass such a measure. Governor Bruce Rauner's office declined to comment on whether or not he will sign the bill into law. However, the Senate bill's chief cosponsor, Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton), said he is "fairly confident" Rauner will sign it.

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