Texas Committee Votes to Expand Right to Try Act; Further Reject Some FDA Restrictions on Personal Choice

AUSTIN, Texas (May 1, 2017) – Last week, a Texas House committee unanimously passed a bit that would expand the Texas “Right to Try” law, setting the foundation to nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by patients with severe chronic diseases.

Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) prefiled House Bill 661 (HB661) last winter. The legislation would enable patients suffering from chronic diseases to access medications and treatments not yet given final approval for use by the FDA. The bill defines a chronic disease as a condition, illness or injury that lasts longer than one year, requires ongoing medical attention, and entails significant functional impairment or severe pain that limits daily activities.

The House Public Health Committee passed HB661 last Thursday by an 11-0 vote.

HB661 is based on the Texas Right to Try law that went into effect in June of 2015. The law enables terminally ill patients to access medications and treatments that do not have final FDA approval. Since the law went into effect, at least 78 patients in Texas have received an experimental cancer treatment not allowed by the FDA.  If passed, HB661 would effectively expand Right to Try to patients suffering from chronic illnesses.

Language in HB661 references the success of Right to Try in the Lone Star State.

“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 a 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.”

Provisions in HB661 are similar to those in the current Right to Try law. Specifically, the legislation prohibits state officials from any actions that would prevent the lawful administering of experimental procedures to eligible patients. It reads, in part:

“An official, employee, or agent of this state may not block or attempt to block an eligible patient’s access to an investigational drug, biological product, or device under this chapter.”

This is important, since local law enforcement often works closely with federal agencies to take aggressive actions to stop state program that aren’t in line with federal law. Including this provision ensures that the ‘boots on the ground’ for law enforcement – the locals, won’t be taking any action to stop sick people from trying new treatments. The feds will have to handle it, and they don’t have the manpower or resources to get the job done.

Healthcare providers are also protected under the bill, with a prohibition against revoking a license or issuing sanctions based on recommendation or issuance of such investigational treatments. Manufacturers of medications and treatments are shielded from legal recourse as well.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB661 will now likely move to the full House for further consideration.

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