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What Role Should the Government Play in Patients’ Access to Coronavirus Treatments?

April 9, 2020

April 9, 2020
By Christina Sandefur

Recently, I joined the Foundation for Economic Education for an online town hall on how the freedom movement can mobilize during and after the COVID-19 crisis. The panel touched on many issues that my Goldwater Institute colleagues have been addressing over the past several weeks: The Reason Foundation’s Corey DeAngelis talked about how the crisis is shaping the interest and dialogue surrounding school choice, given that almost every family is a homeschool family now. Kent Lassman from the Competitive Enterprise Institute talked about cutting red tape that’s holding back problem-solvers in the midst of this crisis. And the Mercatus Center’s Daniel Rothschild talked about what we can do to kickstart America’s economic recovery.

I focused on how Right to Try is shaping America’s approach to this healthcare crisis. For decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) bureaucratic drug approval process has stopped patients from accessing potentially lifesaving vaccines and treatments. Indeed, we’re learning that this red tape of the past has hampered our ability to be fully prepared for the future—including the current crisis. For example, federal rules prevented testing early in the crisis.

Cutting through needless red tape that threatens public health is why the Goldwater Institute designed Right to Try—and worked with doctors, patients, and policymakers across the country to protect the right of terminally ill patients to try safe experimental treatments that could prolong or save their lives.

Fortunately, Right to Try has given the FDA a new mandate to meet the immediate needs of patients facing life-threatening illness. Federal agencies are finally expanding approval for diagnostic tests and labs. The FDA has granted emergency authorization to make possible treatments available from the Strategic National Stockpile, a federally operated supply of medicine for use in public health emergencies. The Agency also just announced a new accelerated program to help expedite the clinical evaluation of potential vaccines and treatments. And as treatments are discovered and developed, patients are going to have more options to try those treatments than ever before.

Right to Try has changed the way we think about what role the government should—and shouldn’t—play in determining whether a patient should have access to a potential treatment. The coronavirus crisis is demonstrating the importance of this new mindset. But as I discussed in the town hall, there’s more to be done to help patients through this crisis and in the future, including:

Now, more than ever, is the time to gear reforms toward getting the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. And when the immediate threat to our health has subsided, officials should reflect on these important lessons about how Americans benefit when we unleash the power of human innovation and cut the red tape holding it back.

Christina Sandefur is the Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute.



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