State Rep advocates for terminally ill patients

Originally published in WCSH 6 Maine by Katharine Bavoso

VERONA ISLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A state representative who lost his own father to cancer wants to give terminally ill patients one last option for life.

It’s a bill that was passed by 12 states last year, the Right To Try bill, and State Rep. Karl Ward is working to bring it to Maine.

Rep. Ward is passionate about the the Right To Try bill, which would give terminally ill patients access to investigational drugs and treatments not yet released to the general public.

If passed into law, patients who have exhausted their treatment options without any results could have the right to try drugs that have passed only the first phase of the three phase testing process done by the Food And Drug Administration.

A Right To Try law wouldn’t require drug companies to provide their experimental drugs to the patients, meaning the companies could refuse. Also under the law, insurance companies would not be mandated to cover the costs, meaning patients could pay out of pocket.

According to the FDA website, Phase One of the FDA’s testing process is usually tested on healthy patients only for side effects, and not for its effectiveness on people with certain diseases.

Advocates like Ward said it’s about giving the patient the right to choose and take control of his or her own life when he or she have nothing else to lose.

“You might have to wait years and years for it to go through the full FDA process, but with this bill, if the drug manufacturers agree, if your doctor agrees, then you can try. And it gives you hope,” Ward said.

Dr. Tom Openshaw with Eastern Maine Medical Center said a better alternative would be for the state to require insurance companies to cover costs of clinical trials that could provide patients with better tested drugs. But Ward doesn’t believe patients should have their last options limited. The bill, LD 180, will go before the Committee of Health and Human Services on Friday morning.