Colorado will be the first state to allow terminally ill patients access to drugs and devices not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The new law is controversial because there are questions about whether or not unapproved treatments will put patients at risk and increase costs without corresponding health benefits.
The FDA already allows access to investigational therapies for terminally ill patients outside of clinical trial under a “compassionate” use clause but the approval process is on a case by case basis and it takes time because of the lengthy review process. In many cases terminally ill patients do not have time to wait.
A similar bill was introduced in Missouri last session and was unanimously approved by the House and Senate, Governor Nixon has until July 14 to sign the bill into law. If the Missouri Bill is signed into law, Missouri will become the third state to have a “Right to Try” exception for terminally ill patients.
I can appreciate both sides of the debate. Unapproved drugs and devices are scary stuff. Even approved drugs and devices are scary stuff. Every medication has a side effect and even medications that have been on the market for years are later found to have a negative side effect.
I have personal experience with a terminally ill loved one. My mother was diagnosed with Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma in late 2007 and she passed away less than 6 months later. The type of cancer she had is rare and was untreatable. There was a period of time that my family would have jumped at an opportunity for any type of treatment option experimental or not. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I’m not sure I feel the same way now. Unapproved therapies may provide false hope or they may do more harm than good. Had we chosen an unproven therapy that caused her life to be shortened more than it already was we would have regretted it and we would have lost precious time with her and we would have second guessed the decision forever.
Hope is powerful and I would never want to restrict anyone’s opportunity for hope. Each situation is unique and every person has their own set of values. I hope the law passes in Missouri because then, at least, a terminally ill individual has a choice. I know from personal experience that choice and options are limited when a person is terminally ill and having an option is better than no option at all regardless of the decision that’s made.