Local reaction to federal 'Right to Try' measure

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - President Trump signed the right to try bill Wednesday, allowing terminally ill patients the right to seek treatments before they finish clinic trials.

Billions of dollars are spent on research and drug development every year as scientists work to treat and cure a variety of diseases. But it takes a long process to get a treatment from the lab to patients.

"It's not a quick turn around by any means," Jessica Vandermark, the Director of Clinical Research non-oncology trials at Sanford research said.

Vandermark says the lab process alone can take several years.

"Just to figure that out before you even have enough evidence and data to show that there's a possibility this could even work in humans," Vandermark said.

Then the drug must be approved by an internal review board for further study before clinical trials can begin.

"They can take five plus years," Vanermark said.

"There are a lot of therapies out there that don't get immediately approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that have a hard time making it through the bureaucracy of getting through that certification and approval process that might save lives," Senator John Thune said.

The Right to Try act will allow terminally ill patients to access drugs that are still in the clinical trial phase.

"For those individuals, it gives them the hope that perhaps one of these new alternatives might actually save their lives," Senator Mike Rounds said.

Right to Try has already been in place in South Dakota since 2015.

"It just seems that people should be able to decide with their doctor," Representative Leslie Heinemann said.

Representative Leslie Heinemann from Flandreau has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and says he introduced the Right to Try Act in South Dakota to help others with his disease access a new treatment.

"It was showing great promise in the country of Great Britain, so people in the MS world were saying why can't we have access to that drug," Heinemann said.

"We just want to make sure that the research is done and the investigations are done in a good way, so that there are safeguards for patients," Susan G. Komen Great Plains CEO Karen Daneu said.

A national group of 40 patient advocacy organizations signed a letter against this newly signed federal measure earlier this week, saying it could put patients at risk.

"The FDA is in place so there are important patience safe guards, informed consent and then reporting requirements are included when you have an agency to help with these breakthrough drugs," Daneu said.

"Yes, some critics say it potentially could kill that patient, but what's the alternative to that?" Heinemann said. "If they're going to die anyhow, I believe they should have access to tha, and they should be able to make that decision by themselves with their physician."

Agencies against the Right to Try measure say the FDA already has a compassionate use provision that lets terminally ill patients request to enter a clinical trial; 99 percent of those requests are approved.