The 'Right to Try' could cost dying patients a lot

The biotechnology firm Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics Inc. may be the first to offer dying patients unproven drugs under the new "Right to Try" law that deregulated access to such experimental treatments. Brainstorm CEO Chaim Lebovits says the company will charge for a therapy it is developing for the deadly condition known as Lou Gehrig's disease, citing the price of bespoke cell therapies used to treat cancer that cost more than $300,000. "We have to have an incentive," says Lebovits. Health insurers do not typically pay for treatments that have not been approved by regulators or proven to work in clinical trials. That means patients would have to pay for the therapies out of their own pockets. "Right to Try" allows doctors of patients with life-threatening diseases to work directly with drug companies for access to experimental drugs. The law aims to simplify the process and bypass FDA entirely. Critics warn the lack of oversight may make patients even more vulnerable as they near death, creating opportunities for unscrupulous companies or clinics to take advantage of them. Only doctors who participated in the drug's clinical trials would be included in the "Right to Try" program under consideration at Brainstorm, Lebovits says, adding that it would be a semi-commercial enterprise with modest profits that would not exploit patients’ desperation.

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