WASHINGTON — President Trump signed legislation Wednesday to give terminally ill patients the ability to access experimental drugs that have not won approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
The "right to try" measure will let patients who have exhausted other options access drugs in early stages of FDA review. Trump has frequently noted his support for the idea, most recently during his State of the Union address in January.
"For countless patients, time is not what they have," the president said. "With the right to try, patients with life-threatening illnesses will finally have access to experimental treatments that could improve or even cure their conditions."
Trump has sought several changes in FDA policy this year, most of which have been aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs or speeding their review. Hinting at the possibility of another announcement, Trump said that pharmaceutical companies would announce a “voluntary, massive” reduction in prices in coming weeks.
The "right to try" legislation gives terminally ill patients the ability to access drugs that have cleared the initial phase of review but have not been fully cleared by the FDA. The House approved a Senate-passed bill earlier this month on a mostly party-line vote.
Supporters said the measure gives a lifeline to patients who don’t have another option. Opponents are concerned about cutting the FDA out of the process and have questioned whether it would, in fact, give patients greater access to experimental drugs.
As the House and Senate negotiated different versions of the bill, Trump said he called on lawmakers to focus on the proposal that would have the most benefit for “the people,” not insurers and drug manufacturers.
“I don't care about them,” the president said. “I couldn't care less.”