Bills of Note: Right to Try

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Wisconsin lawmakers comprising the Assembly Committee on Health met for a public hearing to consider 2017 Assembly Bill 69. Introduced by Rep. Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield) and Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), the “Right to Try” legislation offers citizens with a terminal illness the opportunity to access investigational drugs, devices, and biological products that are not yet offered as treatment options or on pharmacy shelves in Wisconsin. Such treatments have completed a U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) phase one safety trial, but are not yet available due to the timing of the rigorous approval process performed by the federal agency, nor have they been proven effective.

Rep. Snyder, one of several representatives to give testimony at the hearing, sought to garner support for his bill by arguing it would place the treatment decision back in the hands of the patient in a situation when few options are available. The FDA approval process, he argued, is time-consuming and inhibits patients from seeking a full range of treatments for their respective illness. Echoing signs of bipartisan support for the bill, Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) recommended backing the bill but did suggest the results of the resultant experimental treatments be recorded and analyzed. Other representatives offering support at the hearing were Rep. Kathleen Bernier (R-Lake Hallie) and James Edming (R-Glen Flora). A representative of the Wisconsin Medical Society (WMS), a lobbying group representing physicians, appeared and testified in opposition to the bill. The WMS, in part, argued that the bill undermined the scientific FDA approval process that they believe leads to medical advancement and could, in the long run, delay approval of life-extending drugs.