End the War on Dying Cancer Patients

by R. Lee Wrights

Stopping all war is not just something we need to do in the Middle East. It is something we need just as badly here at home. When I say “stop all war,” I’m not just talking about the bombing and fighting overseas; I’m talking about the wars that the U.S. Government wages against its very own citizens. I am talking about how bureaucrats kill Americans, not with guns and bombs, but with laws and regulations.

Perhaps the best example of this is the war against the terminally ill. Did you know that if you are dying and want to take a promising new drug that could save your life you can’t legally do it unless the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says you can? A coalition of cancer patients recently sued the FDA for permission to buy promising new drugs that had been tested for safety in people, but had not yet undergone the lengthy and rigorous effectiveness studies. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so the lower court ruling of 2007 still stands. The ruling says that you have no constitutional right to buy a drug—even one that might save your life—without FDA approval.

This suit was spearheaded by the Abigail Alliance, founded by Frank Burroughs, Abigail’s father. Abigail and her family tried to get FDA permission to try the drug Erbitux, which was in human trials for her type of cancer and was eventually shown to be a breakthrough treatment for it. Time and time again federal bureaucrats refused to help her.

The FDA finally relented a couple weeks before Abigail died at the age of 21. Mr. Burroughs decided that no other person should ever have to endure the heartbreak of losing a loved one while a life-saving treatment might have been given. He formed the Abigail Alliance shortly after his daughter’s death to stop this war on dying patients. The Alliance has fought a largely losing battle for better access to 17 new drugs, all of which were eventually approved by the FDA and saved many lives thereafter. Unfortunately, terminally ill people who might have been saved could not—and still cannot—buy promising new drugs until they go through an FDA-mandated 12 to 15 year development process.

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