2021 Legislative Session Offers Opportunity to Save Lives

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In 2019, a Texas House Committee passed House Bill 805 by unanimous consent. This legislation would substantially expand “Right to Try” within the state, broadening the scope of the current law casting a larger net, and giving more patients access to non-approved Food and Drug Administration (FDA) treatments.

Currently, experimental treatments are prohibited by the FDA. Yet, in 2018, President Trump signed into federal law the Right to Try Act (RTT) (S.204), opening up the door to treatments for terminally ill patients. This was a solid first step in reform of the drug approval process and draws attention to the difficulties many patients fighting for their lives must endure.

Today, it takes on average 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring a drug from lab to patients. Many patients don’t have the time to wait. Nor can they lobby a pharmaceutical company to get access through Right to Try. And states like Texas are taking note that RTT only allows for terminally ill patients to request access, but for those living with debilitating diseases, there just aren’t options.

Originally, Right to Try legislation was first passed by the states. By 2015, Texas and 40 other states had passed RTT, then federal law followed. Because of the original passage in Texas, more than 78 cancer patients have been given access to unapproved treatments in the Lone Star State. This is a phenomenal outcome, but the expansion of this law would do more by putting protections in place that would ensure medical professionals wouldn’t be penalized for utilizing RTT, when professional opinion and patient circumstances deems necessary.

Language from the legislation is supportive of patient freedom and moves Texas toward a patient-centered health care system. The bill makes it clear that the intent is to broaden the scope and continue improving from the original RTT legislation.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, language in the bill includes, “The Right To Try Act, as added by Chapter 502 (H.B.21), Acts of the 84th Legislature, Regular Session, 2015, has had tremendous success in saving the lives of many patients with a terminal illness… …patients who are battling severe chronic disease, that is debilitating, or causes severe pain do not have the luxury of waiting until an investigational drug, biological product, or device receives final approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration.”

The Heartland Institute supports a policy proposal that expands upon that original RTT and would allow for more access to unapproved therapies. Free to Choose Medicine (FTCM) offers hope for patients by addressing the root of the problem: the FDA drug approval process.

The goal of any FDA reform ought to be expedited approval, for and at a lower cost. It is in everyone’s interest that bad drugs fail faster, and good drugs succeed sooner. FTCM would accomplish this goal.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught our nation anything, it is that government regulation isn’t the cure, and people do better when they have the freedom to choose.

I strongly urge the Texas Legislature to continue to look toward broadening the scope of RTT and build upon the foundation that was originally laid in 2015. There is opportunity to improve access to quality care, and make monumental strides toward innovative cures, if only government will get out of the way.

Christina Herrin ([email protected]) is the government relations manager of Health Policy at The Heartland Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.