Among his many references to health-related concerns in the 2019 State of the Union address, President Trump stressed the significance of his federal “Right to Try” bill passed last May. His goal “to give critically ill patients access to life-saving cures” is now being realized, as at least two people in the United States have begun treatment under the law.
The “Right to Try” bill gives terminally-ill patients the option to try experimental drugs that have completed initial trials but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although the law was previously implemented in 41 states, Trump’s signing made it “the law of the land” throughout the U.S. Placing important healthcare decisions into the hands of patients rather than the government, the law gives patients with no other options a chance to extend their lives.
The hard work that went into passing the law is now coming to fruition, as two people have publicly reported receiving investigational treatments.
An anonymous California man with an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma started therapy back in November. The treatment, called Gliovac, is manufactured by the Belgian company Epitopoietic Research Corporation (ERC). The drug is currently in Stage 2 clinical trials, but the patient did not qualify for any, likely due to the state of his disease. His family thus went directly to ERC, and under the Right to Try law, requested Gliovac treatment. The patient is one of only about 24 patients currently receiving the drug.
On Tuesday, another patient publicly announced having received treatment under Right to Try. Matt Bellina, an ALS patient who fought tirelessly for the bill to pass, has begun the experimental drug NurOwn. Bellina is a retired Naval Lieutenant Commander who advocated so fiercely for the bill that it even honors him with his name. Although the investigational drug offers no promises, Bellina says “for now, we are feeling incredibly blessed.”
A remarkable accomplishment, only a year ago, President Trump promised to make the bill a reality, and today we know of two patients who are utilizing it. Right to Try advocates likely imagined more than two patients utilizing the law over the past year, as many believed the bill would benefit “millions” of patients. But it’s good news to hear that the law is changing the lives of at least two people and their family members, and it seems to be heading in the right direction.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the “Right to Try” law, click here to visit their website.