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House panel unveils right-to-try bill

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House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., (pictured) and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, have unveiled a right-to-try bill in the House of Representatives on Saturday morning. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House lawmakers have unveiled their version of a bill that lets terminally ill patients try experimental treatments.

The bill was released early Saturday morning and is the House companion of a Senate version that passed last year. The White House has also made pushing legislation for right-to-try a major priority, with President Trump even mentioning it during his State of the Union address in January.

“This updated ‘Right to Try’ bill is the direct result of conversations with our colleagues, the administration and stakeholders on all sides of the issue,” said Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Michael Burgess, R-Texas, in a statement.

Walden is head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Burgess helms the subcommittee on health.

The bill would let patients gain access to a drug that has gone through the first of three phases of clinical trials. The patient must be terminally ill and have no other options to qualify to get the drug.

Manufacturers wouldn't be required to supply the drug to terminally ill patients, but the bill hopes to entice drugmakers to participate in the program.

Drugmakers are sometimes hesitant to provide a drug outside of a clinical trial to a terminally ill patient because if the patient dies, then it could affect the approval of the product by the Food and Drug Administration. Experts have said that patients who would use right-to-try would likely be sicker than patients in a clinical trial.

The bill seeks to provide certainty to manufacturers on how the FDA will use patient outcomes when evaluating whether to approve the product.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will likely hold a markup of the legislation soon to determine to send it to the House floor. The Senate version led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., passed unanimously.

Vice President Mike Pence has made right-to-try a priority, as he signed a state right to try bill while serving as governor of Indiana. The state bill, though, is moot as it cannot preempt federal law.