House Bill 934, the Right to Try Act, allows access to certain stem cell treatments not yet approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Forty-one states have passed so called right-to-try laws in response to the extraordinary length of time it takes the FDA to approve treatments, which can take 12 years according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Patients are demanding better access to cutting-edge drugs, particularly in potentially lifesaving situations.
The new statute builds on the state’s existing right-to-try law, which has been in place since 2015 and allows terminally ill patients expanded access to investigational drugs. H.B. 934 deals specifically with experimental stem cell treatment and includes chronically ill patients, not just those diagnosed as terminal.
Campaign for Nationwide Reform
Access to experimental treatments is prohibited by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, though in 2018 President Trump signed a federal right to try act (S. 204) opening treatment to terminally ill patients unable to get access to clinical trials.
A campaign known as Free to Choose Medicine seeks to expand on the federal right to try by addressing the root of the problem: the FDA’s approval process.
“Currently, FDA clinical drug trials take 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring a drug from lab to market,” said Christina Herrin, campaign manager for Free to Choose Medicine (FTCM) at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News. “FTCM would lower costs, expedite the approval process, and save lives.”
Herrin says North Carolina’s expanded legislation is another strong indicator of the need for national reform.
“HB 934 is an excellent first step and opens the door to further allowing patients and their doctors, not the government, to make health care decisions,” said Herrin.
State Leader in Medical Treatment
John Locke Foundation Health Policy Analyst Jordan Roberts says there is a particular reason why the vote in favor of H.B. 934 was unanimous.
“North Carolina is a leader in medical and pharmaceutical research,” said Roberts.
“This bill reaffirms the state’s commitment to advancing the use of new lifesaving treatments and returning the ability to choose the right treatment back to the patient without government interference,” said Roberts.
Jake Grant ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.
General Assembly of North Carolina, Session Law 2019-70, House Bill 934: https://legiscan.com/NC/text/H934/id/2045110