The Right to Try

By Bill Maher

We hear a lot about burdensome regulations, which is almost entirely a Republican critique. Well, here’s one federal agency whose regulations are getting attention from both sides of the political spectrum: the FDA. 

Currently, it takes the FDA about 7-10 years of clinical trial before they’ll approve a new drug. Lots of terminally ill patients aren’t going to live that long and would like access to experimental or “investigational” drugs in the pipeline because, well, they’re going to die anyway, so why not? 

They’re called “Right to Try” laws, and versions of them have been kicking around at the state level. Now, they seem to have their spokesman: Matt Bellina, a former Navy combat pilot, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

Matt started a petition to allow him and other ALS suffers access to a drug that has shown some promise in treating the disease, and he’s got nearly 800,000 signatures. In a video posted to YouTube, Bellina notes, “There are states in this country where I could go legally end my life, but I’m not allowed to go try a drug that I believe could save my life.”

It’s tough to argue with the idea that terminally ill patients should be afforded the chance to improve their situations, even if it means circumventing the normal FDA approval process. There are also some compelling reason to not do this. And much like the “right to die” issue, it largely depends on your view on personal liberty and autonomy, or the role of the government. Basically what we have here is people who want a Dallas Buyer’s Club for terminal diseases that doesn’t require that anyone involved with the Dallas Buyer’s Club break the law. Is this a good idea? And if it isn’t, do you want be the person to tell Matt Bellina?