House Democrats refused to pass Tuesday the Right to Try Act, a bill that would have allowed patients facing life-threatening illnesses to take medicines not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The bill — strongly supported by President Trump, Republicans, and even a few Democrats — fell just seven votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed for passage, at 259 to 140, according to the Washington Examiner. It had passed the Senate last year with unanimous consent.
Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a proponent of the bill who had introduced the Senate version, expressed his disappointment via Twitter Tuesday evening.
It’s disappointing to see the House fail to pass commonsense legislation that would give the right to hope to so many terminally ill patients in America. I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of patients and their families until right to try is signed into law. #RightToTry
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) March 14, 2018
According to the Examiner, right-to-try laws have been passed in 38 states, including Indiana, where then-Governor Mike Pence signed one into law.
But none of them can override the federal law that says all drugs must have FDA approval. The bill defeated on Tuesday would have allowed patients access to medicines that had been determined by the FDA to be safe for people, but not yet approved to be effective.
While the bill’s proponents insist patients who are already terminally ill have nothing to lose by trying experimental drugs, Democrats who voted against the bill were reluctant to undermine the FDA’s role in approving such drugs.
Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone said the bill could allow treatments that “may do more harm than good,” adding that government “must protect patients from bad actors or unsafe treatments that would make their lives worse.”
Several other politicians and media figures used Twitter to slam the Tuesday vote:
I am disappointed with tonight’s vote on #RightToTry. Terminally ill patients around the country are searching for a glimmer of hope to save their lives, but partisan obstruction has delayed passage of this legislation.
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) March 14, 2018
By voting down #RightToTry, Democrats just voted to keep potentially lifesaving treatments out of reach for terminally ill patients who are fighting for their lives. It’s unacceptable.
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) March 13, 2018
I am disappointed in House Democrats. Tonight, they voted down Right to Try, a bill I cosponsor, that allows dying people from trying new drugs not yet available on the market. Since 2014, 39 states have approved “Right to Try” laws.
— Rep. Don Bacon (@RepDonBacon) March 13, 2018
House Dems listened to the special interest groups & just took the #RightToTry bill down. It’s law in nearly 40 states & could mean the difference between life/death for sick Americans. https://t.co/QutcVZy6Cs
— AshLee Strong (@AshLeeStrong) March 13, 2018
It is unfortunate that Democrats blocked the #RightToTry Act. This good-faith bill is aimed at helping terminally ill patients by giving them access to potentially life-saving treatments.
— Rep. Glenn Grothman (@RepGrothman) March 13, 2018