The Senate approved a bill by unanimous consent Thursday that allows terminally ill patients across the nation to request access to experimental medicines without Food and Drug Administration approval.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., introduced the 'right-to-try' legislation, which drew support from the White House earlier this year. It would authorize patients diagnosed with life-ending illnesses to use unapproved medications—so long as they have undergone early testing on humans and are under continual evaluation. Patients also would have to have tried other treatment options.
“The Senate took a strong stand in support of the millions of Americans and their families suffering from terminal illness,” Johnson said in a statement Thursday. “Patients with terminal diseases ought to have a right to access treatments that have demonstrated a level of safety and could potentially save their lives.”
Johnson, who worked extensively on this issue for the last year and a half, said he is “proud” that the Senate “stood up for terminally ill patients” who “just want to reclaim their freedom—who want the right to hope.”
Johnson had threatened the FDA with holding up a five-year reauthorization of FDA user fee programs if the bill did not pass.
Thirty-seven states have passed “right to try” bills on an “overwhelming bipartisan basis,” according to Johnson’s office.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for review.