‘Right to Try’ law no panacea for terminally ill, experts say

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Stacy Perry enjoys sitting on the sidelines at soccer games and cheering on her children.

She’s the quintessential embarrassing mom, yelling “That’s my keeper!” when her oldest daughter, 13-year-old Bryanna, stops a goal. She cheers, “Rah-rah-ree, go 73!” when son Maddox, 11, wearing the No. 73 jersey, breaks into the clear with the ball.

But when it comes to battling Stage 4 colon cancer, Perry, a 39-year-old Las Vegas resident, has no interest in sitting back.

That’s why she was ecstatic on May 30 when President Donald Trump signed so-called “Right to Try” legislation. On the face of it, the new law gives terminally ill patients like Perry access to experimental drugs before they’ve been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and outside of the confines of a clinical trial.

“I cried tears of joy. I was so happy, because … this bill affects somebody like me directly,” Perry said. “This Right to Try Act gives me hope and helps me hang on for the next day.”

What she was unaware of — and what some Las Vegas experts say undercuts the need for the federal law — are existing programs that allow doctors to request access for patients to investigational drugs through the FDA.

Perry’s oncologist at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, Dr. Fadi Braiteh, said it’s unlikely the law will expand patient access to medicine at all.

“In a nutshell, its more of a political brouha-brouha than a real change,” he said.

Risk vs. reward

Also, unlike the so-called “compassionate use” program, the new law cuts the FDA out of the equation entirely. That prompted the American Cancer Society and other patient advocacy groups to write a letter to members of Congress before the bill’s passage expressing concern for patient safety.

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