RICHMOND, Dec., 17, 2014 – A bill prefiled in Virginia this week would effectively nullify some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that prevent treatments from being used by terminally ill patients.
Senate Bill 732 (SB732), the Right to Try Act, authored by State Sen. William M. Stanley, Jr (R-District 20), is the latest pushback against the FDA and their controversial methodology of approving drugs for mass consumption.
Under SB732, a patient is eligible for experimental drugs or procedures not yet approved by federal regulators if they suffer from “terminal illness, attested to by his treating physician” and have “considered all other treatment options currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration” and were “denied opportunity to participate in a clinical trial” or “unable to participate in a clinical trial… within 100 miles of his home address.” The patient is also required to give “informed consent in writing” or have their legal guardian do so if they are under the age of 18.
Health care providers who prescribe these drugs to patients are shielded from liability under SB732. The bill states that “no health care provider who recommends the use of an investigational drug, biological product, or device for treatment of a patient’s terminal illness… shall be deemed to have engaged in unprofessional conduct solely on the grounds of such recommendation.”
In addition, SB732 states that “an individual who prevents or attempts to prevent a manufacturer from making an investigational drug, biological product, or device available to a person in accordance with the provisions of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” This is a provision that has not been found in similar Right to Try bills that have been introduced and passed in other states.
SB732 is apart of a greater trend promoting medical freedom that is sweeping the nation. During this most recent November election, Arizona residents approved Prop. 303, known as the Arizona Terminal Patients’ Right to Try Referendum. The proposition allows investigational drugs, biological products or devices to be made available to eligible terminally ill patients, which are not permitted under the FDA. Prop. 303 is similar to laws passed in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Louisiana, known as “Right to Try” laws.
These laws, though they deal with a small aspect of the FDA’s regulations, provides us with a clear model of how to nullify federal laws that violate the Constitution by narrowing the influence of nullification to limited aspects of the law itself.
The effectiveness of such nullification laws rests in the obvious logic behind them; dying people should not be deprived of their right to any means that might ease their pain or keep them alive, and it is extremely difficult for opponents to argue that dying people should be forced to use only drugs approved of by bureaucrats who are incapable of empathizing with their possible suffering.
In Louisiana, for example, the law received 80 percent approval, according to one survey. In three of the states that have passed “Right to Try” laws, not a single politician voted nay. In Michigan, the entire state House voted yea with no abstentions, while only two senators voted against it.
These types of laws are necessary because of the cumbersome bureaucratic process deployed by the FDA. It can take more than a decade and a billion dollars to get new medications on the market, according to Lucy Caldwell, communications director for the Goldwater Institute.
One such example is that of Mikaela Knapp, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
According to a World Net Daily report:
She and her husband, Keith, launched a social media campaign to lobby drug firms and the FDA to give her access to a new gene therapy. Their efforts gained national attention and generated 200,000 signatures on a petition at Change.org but failed to win access to the treatment. The 25-year-old newlywed died April 24.
Under a free market (and if the feds adhered to the Constitution) the therapy would have been available for Knapp already. She would not have had to seek anyone’s permission, which she died waiting for.
This is simply unacceptable. Whatever the dangers inherent in trying experiment drugs, this is a decision that should rest solely with the person consuming the drug, not busybodies, do-gooders, or sanctimonious control freaks.
There may be those who reject the nullification method and opt instead to work within the system in D.C., but they shouldn’t get their hopes up. In 2003, a federal judge ruled that terminally ill people do not have a right to access to investigational medicine. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal on that ruling.
That is why bills such as SB732 are so important. Because federal regulatory agencies and courts refuse to show compassion for terminally ill patients, we must step up at the state level to help them. It is truly a matter of life and death.
For Virginia: Contact your State Senator and politely urge them to co-sponsor SB732. Afterwards, contact your State House Representative and politely urge them to introduce similar legislation to SB732 in their chamber. Feel free to contact more of your state legislators and urge them to co-sponsor and support SB732 as well. You can find their contact information HERE.
For other states: Contact your state legislators and urge them to introduce ‘Right to Try’ legislation similar to SB732 in Virginia. You can find their contact information HERE.