So… as everyone may have heard, Arizona voters just passed Proposition 303, the “Right to Try Law.” This event didn’t get anywhere near the media press that it should have (I didn’t read anything about it until today, in a Vancouver B.C. paper.) Here’s a good summary:
The measure will allow investigational drugs, biological products or devices to be made available to eligible terminally ill patients. The term “investigational” refers to medical treatments that have completed phase one of a clinical trial but have not yet been approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration and remain under investigation in clinical trials.
I don’t know. I’m afraid that this is one of those things that sounds better than it is… one of the main problems being that it doesn’t do anything at all towards helping patients and their families to actually afford these drugs. Insurance companies do NOT need to cover them, which really, really bothers me. And there are a lot of companies who I wouldn’t trust a zillionth as far as I could throw them with an anvil tied on when it comes to this issue.
But… four states have already approved the same kind of referendums (Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri and Michigan.) The Colorado initiative was a lot better known, and the interesting thing is that biotech company Neuralstem has been a big player. The irony is that they’re one of the very few companies I would halfway trust to do a decent job with this, and yet I think they’re clearly participating in the process of opening the door to that slippery slope– remember that anvil-tied-on thing?
Overall, another issue, of course, is that these are state laws, and they’re going to be superceded by federal law when it comes to what the FDA will and won’t do. So that may sink the whole project. And then there’s the fact that only terminal illnesses will be covered. What about AMD? What about diseases that steal all quality of life and yet aren’t strictly “terminal?” Why not cover those too, if any are going to come in under the law at all?
I think the final message is that these “right to try” laws represent an idea that is something to watch. I can see both good and bad here. And hopefully, the bad won’t predominate. YMMV.
I survived the disease, and I now have the only remission on record. But a remission is not a cure. The stem cell drug I need for a real cure is now rapidly moving towards approval in the rest of the world, but in the USA, it—and all other cellular therapies-- are still stuck behind prejudice, ignorance, and lack of funding. Hundreds of millions of desperate patients with incurable diseases need these drugs.
That’s why I’ve gone on to fight for greater public education on stem cell drugs, knowing that our laws must be changed so that all of us can get access to the best treatments instead of our health and our lives being held hostage by special interests.
I’m now a patient advocate whose work on stem cells and patients’ rights has been published in outlets such as the Oregonian. I am a manager at popular science and financial blog www.stemcellinvestor.com and a frequent speaker at many venues across the spectrum, including churches, scientific conferences, and atheist groups, and everything in between. I’m also an advocate for Right to Try laws that would allow access to experimental medication for terminal patients at the state level. Read the entire story in my upcoming book, And the Blind Shall See: A Skeptic Patient Surprised by Faith, Science, Family, and Miracle Cures.
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