President Donald Trump signed the Right to Try bill into law on May 30, 2018, making it legal for terminally ill patients, who have exhausted all possible cures, to access experimental drugs that are in the early phases of trials. It will now be possible for such patients to have access to not only medical marijuana but also magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and ecstasy (MDMA) – two drugs that have cleared the phase 1 and phase 2 trials respectively for treatment of end stage illnesses.
The new law would allow individuals to bypass drug regulators and directly approach a drugmaker for the experimental drug if it has cleared a few trials, but not received approval yet. Prior to the passage of the new legislation, it was mandatory for the person affected to approach the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to seek permission to either use the experimental drug or participate in its trials.
Hope at last
By ensuring that patients have ready access to experimental treatment within the country, the President has, in one stroke, provided hope to many terminally ill patients who in the past had to travel from country to country to seek cure and suffer hardships in the process. While some drug therapies are still illegal in the United States, they have passed clinical trials and are being used in other countries. Further, it is now possible for patients to access medications when needed. In the past, patients had to wait for years while the drugs were tested for appropriateness and efficacy.
Both the President and Vice President Mike Pence have been vocal about their support for the legislature. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives last week and by the Senate in August 2017. Speaking on one occasion, President Trump wondered why it took so long to pass the bill, which could provide relief to many. “We believe that patients with terminal illnesses should have access to experimental treatment immediately that could potentially save their lives,” he said.
However, the opponents of the law believe that the act undermines the regulatory authority of the FDA and in some instances leaves the patient more vulnerable than before to the adverse impacts of the medicines.
Taking the road to recovery
The Right to Try is a brave move and despite opposition from some quarters could provide respite for all those struggling with diseases like cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), where a little relief from pain can go a mile. With only a miniscule percentage of people receiving the benefits of clinical trials, the new law gives patients a unique opportunity to access treatments safely in clinical settings and under medical guidance. However, considering the fact that drugs like marijuana and MDMA have a huge potential for abuse, it is extremely important to be careful while administering such experimental drugs.
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