President Donald Trump took action Wednesday to sign a bill with bipartisan support and local ties into law.
The bill, known as the “Right to Try” legislation, gives terminally ill patients the ability to access potentially lifesaving treatments. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who supported the legislation, and other Bucks County residents were present at the signing of the bill.
Trump said the legislation will help save lives.
“Today, we witnessed American history when the President signed our Right to Try bill into law. After years of debate and relentless work by Right to Try advocates around the nation, American patients and families facing an unimaginable terminal illness now have the opportunity to fight for their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “They deserve the chance to try whatever option is available to fight for their life. For patients who might not qualify for certain clinical trials, or who have exhausted all their options, Right to Try opens the door to potentially lifesaving treatments.”
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has a program allowing certain patients to apply for access to these promising treatments, however the program is not far reaching enough. Only about 1,200 people each year make it through the original process, a release from the congressman’s office says.
“Physicians must certify that other options are exhausted or not available and all products must have completed FDA Phase I (safety) testing to prevent “snake oil salesmen” and other bad actors. Moreover, the legislation addresses concerns which could prevent its successful utilization by ensuring patients, doctors, and manufacturers do not assume any additional liability under this act,” the release says.
“A lot of these trials will be really successful, I truly believe that,” Trump said at the signing.
Before signing the bill in Washington D.C., Trump thanked a number of legislators who worked to make the legislation possible, including Fitzpatrick.
Northampton father and veteran Matthew Bellina was also present at the signing. Bellina, who is diagnosed with ALS, would have had to go to Israel to receive treatment had this legislation not passed.
Trump’s administration has pushed for the legislation, but there have been ethical questions raised about whether the Right To Try would actually help most patients.
“Even if right to try does simplify federal regulation, patients must still convince a reticent pharmaceutical industry to provide drugs outside of trials, and patients must still bear the costs for these experimental treatments, which is out of reach for almost all Americans,” academic lecturer Morten Wendelbo and Texas A&M Assistant Professor
Right to Try has been a focus on Fitzpatrick’s run since he took office last year.