Patients with life threatening illnesses will now be able to petition drug companies directly for access to experimental drugs after President Trump signed the "Right To Try" bill on Wednesday.
The White House — and many patient advocacy groups — touted the legislation as a win for patients fighting for a “fundamental freedom” to control their own health and argued that without it, options for terminally patients who had exhausted all treatment options were extremely limited.
Some members of the medical community, however, have argued that the Right to Try offers false hope to patients looking for solutions to medical issues which may not exist.
“Ninety percent of drugs that start testing in human subjects are eventually going to fail,” said Kenneth Kaitin, Director at the Center for the Study of Drug Development at Tufts University. “What this bill is trying to do is saying, 'We're going to make these drugs accessible to the patients who need them before we can determine whether they actually work or not.'”
But for Matthew Bellina, a former Navy pilot with Loud Gehrig's disease (also known as ALS) the potential gains — however small — outweigh the possible health risks of taking experimental drugs. He's been fighting for the passage of Right To Try since 2014.
“People who talk about false hope in this case have never lived with no hope, which is where I am at,” Bellina told VICE News, as he awaited passage of the bill through the House last week. “Right now, I really want to try a cell-based therapy called NurOwn out of Israel, and I’ve not been able to get it. We don’t know if it will work. But we know if I try nothing, I’m going to die. I have no other options.”
This segment originally aired May 22, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.