STAT, May 16, 2017
Andrew Joseph

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He made the emotional plea to his colleagues: Pass this bill.

“It might give somebody like my wife a chance to walk,” Texas Representative Drew Springer said through tears late Thursday at the state Capitol in Austin. “I’d trade every one of my bills I’ve passed, every single one of them, to get the chance to hear HB 810.”

HB 810 is one of three bills being considered in the Texas Legislature that would make it easier for sick people to try unproven therapies at their own risk, and cost. Springer’s bill would allow clinics offering unapproved stem cell treatments to treat patients in Texas. HB 661 would permit people with chronic illness to get therapies in early-stage clinical trials — not just terminally ill patients, as the state’s current “right-to-try” law does. And HB 3236 would allow companies to charge patients for unproven therapies.

The debate in Texas echoes a national discussion over how much access patients should have to experimental drugs. For the lawmakers supporting the measures, the issue is about the ability to make one’s own decisions about health care and not let bureaucracy get in the way of that. But for stem cell researchers and many patient advocates, the bills are dangerous; they make it easier for people to be fleeced or potentially harmed by treatments with little evidence suggesting that they work, or are safe. [...]

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