Proposed law could save terminally ill patients in Illinois

Heather Weiner

Heather Weiner is formerly the Illinois Policy’s Government Affairs Staff Attorney.

Heather Weiner
April 19, 2015

Proposed law could save terminally ill patients in Illinois

Right-to-Try laws empower patients whose lives are on the line.

Update: HB 1335, which would give terminally ill patients a “Right to Try” clinical-trial, experimental medical treatments and medications passed the Illinois General Assembly on May 19. The Illinois Senate passed the bill unanimously on a 55-0-0 vote. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

Health-care legislation known as “Right to Try” promotes patient freedom over government regulation, and it could save the lives of terminally ill patients in Illinois.

Two similar Right-to-Try bills, HB 1335 and SB 29, are before the Illinois General Assembly, and would allow terminally ill patients to access experimental treatments after exhausting all Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment options. The treatments and therapies made available are those which have completed “Phase 1” clinical trials, meaning they have been tested for basic safety in humans, but have not been approved for general use by the FDA.

This is great news for those Illinoisans interested in getting access to these treatments. It’s also good news for those who simply support giving control of health-care decisions to the patients affected by those decisions. Right-to-Try laws empower patients whose lives are on the line to become informed of the potential benefits and risks of all treatment options in order to determine the plan of care they feel is best for them.

Additionally, these bills have no effect on those in the health-care industry who may not want to take part in supplying unapproved treatment options: Manufacturers are not required to provide unapproved drugs and insurers are not required to pay for the costs of these treatments. Right to Try also protects physicians from being sued or from facing disciplinary action by regulatory bodies when they assist in getting the unapproved drugs and devices to the patients who want them. This allows physicians the freedom to respond to the desires of their patients who wish to participate in an investigational treatment program.

The Right-to-Try bills, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Wheaton, and state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, are based largely on model legislation by the Goldwater Institute, a nonprofit that has led the charge in advocating for state-level Right-to-Try laws nationwide. If either of these bills are signed into law, Illinois would be the sixth state to adopt this legislation – a not unlikely scenario given the almost unanimous support the bills received in the Illinois House and Senate.

Amid debate and division in Springfield, it is exciting to see such strong, bipartisan support for a policy that is truly centered on making the needs and desires of vulnerable patients a priority in Illinois health care.

Image credit: Linus Ekenstam

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