AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers took up a handful of bills Tuesday that would give more Texans access to experimental treatments that could potentially save lives and improve quality of life.
Known as the “Medical Freedom Act,” House Bill 661 would allow patients suffering from chronic illnesses access to treatments and medications that have yet to be approved by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Filed by State Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, HB 661 would expand the state’s “Right to Try” law to give chronically ill patients the same right to try experimental drugs that terminally ill patients have.
“Looking at the end of your life — someone you love looking at the end of their life,” described Michelle Wittenburg, who is in that position.
One of her closest friends, Jennifer, has multiple sclerosis. Wittenburg said, “Stand in those shoes for a moment and I think your calculation changes.”
Faced with a diagnosis with no known cure, the 35-year-old mother of two is battling MS while her friends and family are fighting to get access to experimental treatments that could help her.
“We may not know for certain but they know what their situation is,” Wittenburg said. She recalled what her friend, Jessica, said about why she is anxiously in search of new treatment options.
“I know what’s going to happen to me if I don’t get this experimental drug,” Wittenburg explained. FDA officials said it’s their job to ensure medications and treatments are safe for use.
Chairman of Texans for Cures, David Bales said, “The United States is the greatest leader in medical science and it’s because the FDA makes sure we do it the right way.”
Without that stamp of approval, Bales said, “What concerns us is a lot of times people are getting access to drugs that may do them harm.” Representative Parker said patients like Jennifer don’t have time to wait for the FDA, and little to lose.
Parker also filed House Bill 810, which would give both terminally and chronically ill Texans easier access to experimental stem cell therapy.
The same kind of therapy Jennifer is getting in Chicago right now through Compassionate Care because stem cell therapy is not FDA-approved. Wittenburg said, “Not every patient is going to want to make that choice but some of them do and the government shouldn’t stand in the way.”
She added the experimental treatment has given Jennifer hope, “Because I get to change the odds. It gives me the possibility of prolonging my life and prolonging the quality of my life.”