A Senate committee yesterday approved Sen. John Cooper'
s bill to allow terminally ill patients to seek out experimental drugs
for last-ditch treatment.
Said Cooper during the discussion
This is a life-saving measure. I'm absolutely sure this is going to save lives."
The evidence so far is not so conclusive. The bill is a flavor-of-the-day creation of the conservative Goldwater Institute. Kaiser Health offers a sober and even-handed assessment o
f such legislation here.
Some key points;
But even if the FDA approves a request for an experimental drug, the patient might not get it. Drug companies are not obligated to provide the drug to patients who request it.
Without any assurance of access to an experimental drug or device, and with no financial support [there'd be no insurance coverage] to help patients cover the costs, right-to-try laws give patients false hope, say critics of the laws.
The article quotes the leading advocate of the law as saying in November he knew of no one who'd availed themselves of the legislation. Then there's the bigger point:
The decision by drug companies whether to provide a drug to one very sick individual is wrenching. How do they balance the needs of that person against the potential to introduce the drug to a broader patient population? Terminally ill individuals who receive experimental drugs may well suffer serious adverse events, potentially setting back the drug approval process.
Never mind thought and nuance. The usual Arkansas legislative approach: If it sounds good, pass it. Grab a headline. Spend some time extending the time spent in Little Rock. Keep busy. Years later, nobody will bother to add up the futility cramming the statute books.
Cooper was elected on his die-hard opposition to expanding health insurance coverage for the working poor in Arkansas. I'm absolutely sure of this: Health insurance DOES save lives.