On Wednesday August 16, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 84/Assembly Bill 69, or “Right to Try.” Rep. Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield) and Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) introduced AB 69, which would allow eligible patients that have a terminal illness, have considered all other available treatment options, and have received a recommendation or prescription order from the patient’s physician to be given an investigational drug, device, or biological product. The Assembly Committee on Health held a hearing on the bill in February, and the full Assembly passed Right to Try on March 7, on a vote of 85-13.
Up first to testify at the Senate committee’s public hearing this week were the authors. The authors explained that the amended bill passed out of the Assembly included two additional eligibility requirements for an individual to be considered an eligible patient. Under the new requirements, the patient is ineligible for or otherwise unable to participate in a clinical trial within 100 miles of their home address, or has been determined by his or her treating physician to be unsuitable to participate in a clinical trial for which he or she may be eligible. The other requirement includes that the individual must be aware of potential costs that may be associated with or a result of using an investigational drug, device, or biological product. Committee member Sen. Erpenbach (D-Middleton) questioned if the bill goes far enough to empower patients to determine if they can try a drug, as the bill requires a recommendation or prescription order from the patient’s physician and could lead to “doctor shopping.” The authors stated that the bill passed out of the Assembly is a more reasonable approach, and they didn’t know if that would likely be a result.
Committee members heard from several families and individuals who lost loved ones and felt this legislation could help others in the future. The only testimony in opposition of the bill was from the Wisconsin Medical Society (WMS), who stated that there are already better methods, like the FDA expanded access/compassionate use program, to allow access for patients to experimental treatment. WMS also warned that the bill allows access to investigational drugs that just passed the Phase 1 of the FDA trials, which is just testing for toxicity and not the effectiveness of the drug. WMS felt that legislation like this may steer people away from participating in clinical trials, which makes it difficult for data and research to be conducted. WMS asked that SB 84 be amended to mirror language in the U.S. Senate’s version of the bill to ensure utilization of current FDA programs, include a requirement that patients use treatment or clinical trials first, and implement data collection and reporting requirements.
Health and Human Services Committee Chair Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) stated that a date has not been set for an executive session.