Subscribe

Recent Articles

Popular Posts

Site search

Follow Us

Tag: terminally ill

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case on Experimental Drugs

Written by on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

The Supreme Court declined yesterday to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that there is no constitutional right to access experimental drugs, reported the Associated Press

The California Biotech Law Blog reported on this case back in August 2007:

My best guess without reading the decision is that the Court felt that this is a policy issue that should be decided by Congress, which seems to be what was reported. . . .

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court says on this case, if it is indeed heard by the Court.  As those of us who have studied Constitution Law know, the concept of "rights" has been liberally interpreted on occasion, according to Constitutional scholars, to reach a particular result that seems "just" from a policy perspective.  Could the current Court do the same? 

I somehow doubt it.  We have a "conservative" Court in place right now, so I doubt this Court will be reading new rights into the Constitution.  Granted, I am not a Constitutional Scholar, but that is my take on the current Court.

The California Biotech Law Blog accurately predicted that the Court would decline to read a new right into the Constitution.  While the Court did not provide any explanation of its decision not to hear the case, it can be assumed that the Court agreed with the Federal Circuit’s decision: that no right to experimental drugs exists, even when the patient is terminally ill.

So where does the Court’s decision leave this issue?

Clearly, a ruling on the issue in one federal appellate court does not preclude other appellate courts from hearing cases on similar facts and ruling differently on the same issue.   Thus, the possibility exists that another appellate court will revisit the issue down the road.

Having said this, in my opinion, a more likely scenario is that Congress decides to take up the issue at some point in the future.  This issue raises some valid public policy issues, and Congress is arguably the most appropriate forum to address them. 

I continue to take the position that there should be some mechanism by which the terminally ill can access experimental medications that offer a real promise to treating the terminal illness.  While I agree that perhaps the moral arguments in favor of making experimental medications available to the terminally ill do not rise to the level of a Constitutional right, I still think those arguments are compelling.  Doesn’t this issue merit some additional debate?

 

 

1,019 total views, no views today


Category: Biotech Industry News, Biotech Legal Disputes  |  Comments Off on Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case on Experimental Drugs

Court Ruling Denies Terminally Ill Patients the Right to Unapproved But Potentially Life-Saving Drugs

Written by on Thursday, August 9th, 2007

The U.S. Appeals Court in D.C. has ruled in an 8-2 decision that the terminally ill have no right to take unapproved drugs, even when their doctor says it is their best hope for survival.

The Mercury News reported on the decision as follows:

[T]he court said federal drug regulators are entrusted by law with deciding when new drugs are safe for wide use.

The families of terminally ill patients, several of whom died after they were denied promising drugs that were still in tests, filed the lawsuit. They said that dying patients were far more willing to take risks and argued that they should not be forced to wait for new treatments to win final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The judges said the families should take their pleas to Congress, not the courts.

However, the two dissenters said the ruling ignored the Constitution’s protection for individuals and their “right to life” and instead bowed to “a dangerous brand of paternalism” that put the government’s interests first.

According the The Mercury News, the next step is going to be to take this case to the Supreme Court.  It goes without saying that this is not likely to be the last we are hearing on this issue.

I have not seen a copy of the decision yet, so I’m interested to see how the majority reached the decision that they did.  My best guess without reading the decision is that the Court felt that this is a policy issue that should be decided by Congress, which seems to be what was reported above.

Clearly, from a pure policy perspective, the denial of access to potentially life-saving drugs to the terminally ill does not seem to be sound policy.   While the guinea pig argument (i.e. we want to protect the dying from being guinea pigs to be experimented on in their last days) may sound compelling to some, the reality is that most doctors are not going to do that to their patients.  They are only going to recommend possible treatments that hold some hope of working.  And why shouldn’t a patient who chooses to take a chance on an unapproved drug have that opportunity?  What is likelihood that any patient will really face a fate worse than what they are already going to face?

DrugWonks voiced a similar opinion today on the outcome of this case:

I believe the Abigail Alliance and others can make the case that they are not asking for wide use but targeted, tailored and scientifically responsible use that is consistent with their constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment. This notion that somehow such rights are trumped by Padzur’s effort [to] take a wrecking ball to accelerated approval is a joke. The FDA is inconsistent on who gets what and when with respect to access to medicines and I don’t think the Supreme Court is going to let this “wide use” nonsense pass particularly since the Alliance is not asking for patients to determine when a product is safe but only to have the FDA create a regulatory pathway for allowing dying patients access.

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court says on this case, if it is indeed heard by the Court.  As those of us who have studied Constitution Law know, the concept of “rights” has been liberally interpreted on occasion, according to Constitutional scholars, to reach a particular result that seems “just” from a policy perspective.  Could the current Court do the same?

I somehow doubt it.  We have a “conservative” Court in place right now, so I doubt this Court will be reading new rights into the Constitution.  Granted, I am not a Constitutional Scholar, but that is my take on the current Court.

So, it’s quite possible that this will ultimately be placed in the lap of Congress, which will hopefully do the right thing and change the current policy.  There should be some way to legally access unapproved drugs in this country that might save your life when you are dying.  If someone wants to continue to fight to live until the bitter end and not throw in the towel, even if that person is grasping at straws, why should the FDA have the right to deny him or her that chance?  Who is the FDA really protecting in such a case?

685 total views, 2 views today


Category: Biotech Industry News, Biotech Legal Disputes  |  Comments Off on Court Ruling Denies Terminally Ill Patients the Right to Unapproved But Potentially Life-Saving Drugs

© 2008-2015 The Prinz Law Office. All rights reserved.

The Prinz Law Office | Silicon Valley, CA | Los Angeles, CA | Orange County, CA | San Diego, CA | Atlanta, GA | Tel: 1.800.884.2124

Mailing Address: 117 Bernal Rd., Suite 70-110, San Jose, CA 95119; Silicon Valley Office: San Jose- 2033 Gateway Place, 5th Floor, San Jose, CA 95110 (408)884-2854; Los Angeles Office: 3110 Main St., Building C, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (310)907-9218; Orange County Office: 100 Spectrum Center Drive, 9th Floor, Irvine, CA 92618 (949)236-6777; San Diego Office: 4455 Murphy Canyon Road, Suite 100, San Diego, CA 92123 (619)354-2727 Atlanta Office: 1000 Parkwood Circle, Suite 900, Atlanta, Georgia 30339 (404)479-2470

Biotech Lawyer & Attorney: Serving Silicon Valley, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Monica, Silicon Beach, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Atlanta. Licensed in California and Georgia.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers