Treatment of terminal patients by unapproved drugs

In a recent case brought before a federal appeals court in USA, the court ruled that patients with terminal illnesses do not have a constitutional right to use medicines that have not yet won regulatory approval.

There is a big gap in the reporting about the case in question. It was not stated whether the pharmaceutical companies in question would supply the experimental drugs for free or at most for nominal cost; or whether they would require the terminal patients to pay full price for those drugs.

On one hand, selling unapproved & experimental drugs to patients with terminal illnesses is akin to making loans bearing usurious interest to people with poor money handling skills, or to bilking gullible victims by witch doctors. Patients or their next of kin could be induced to part with huge amounts of money in a futile last-ditch attempt to save their lives. Such an activity should rightly be banned.

On the other hand, if a pharmaceutical company is willing to provide an experimental drug free of charge, then the above considration does not apply. The company’s researchers have to believe in the drug for them to want to foist it on the terminal patients. In such a case, the company would have no financial incentive to foist untested drugs on gullible victims. The only benefit the company would get would be from having more clinical experience with the experimental drug.

My suspicion is that the case in question was about the right of pharmaceutical companies to foist, for a pay, experimental drugs on terminal patients. It would be interesting to see who is really behind the Abigail Alliance, the case’s litigants.

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