House passes bill that would give patients access to experimental drugs

The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would give patients with terminal illnesses a right to try unproven experimental treatments. The Senate approved a similar proposal last year, and the measure appears to have a good chance of becoming law.

The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would give patients with terminal illnesses a right to try unproven experimental treatments. The Senate approved a similar proposal last year, and the measure appears to have a good chance of becoming law. Supporters said the bill would give dying patients a chance to obtain potentially helpful prescription drugs without waiting for the completion of clinical trials or going through an FDA-established process to allow the use of "investigational drugs" outside clinical trials. Several Democrats warned the bill would weaken the ability of FDA to protect patients. The bill was opposed by dozens of organizations that represent patients, including the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society. President Donald Trump endorsed the right to try in his State of the Union address in January and again on Monday. Nothing in the bill would require pharmaceutical companies to provide experimental drugs to patients who requested them. Drug manufacturers sometimes turn down requests because they have only a limited supply or they are concerned about legal and medical risks. To address such concerns, the legislation would shield drugmakers, doctors, and hospitals from some of the legal risks of providing unapproved drugs to patients. Doctors and hospitals would generally be protected unless they engaged in gross negligence or willful, reckless, or criminal misconduct.