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March 7, 2019

Unintended Consequences of the Right to Try Act for Palliative Care in Pediatric Oncology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Ethics, The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Emory School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 2Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, and Center for Ethics, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA Oncol. 2019;5(5):603-604. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.7201

In May 2018, the Right to Try (RTT) Act1 was signed into law, and it aims to increase access to investigational drugs for people with life-threatening illnesses. Although compassion is widely viewed as the motivating logic of the RTT Act, there are also indisputable economic and political motivations. These motivations reflect the mindset that the development and delivery of cures is being impeded primarily by risk-averse scientists and regulators, when what is required is a bold commitment to save dying people, unencumbered by timid procedural hurdles. Considerable attention has been paid to how this legislation differs from the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) existing Expanded Access regulations.2 However, during the bill’s progress through Congress, some of the concerns raised about the potential for unintended negative consequences of the law have been missing from the discussion. Herein, we consider one of these concerns: the Act’s potential to undermine palliative care for children with cancer.

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