WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a Federal Drug Administration policy denying experimental drugs to terminally ill patients. The justices refused to reconsider an August ruling in which the D.C. Circuit found that dying patients do not have a constitutional right to take unapproved drugs.
The closely watched case stemmed from a 2003 lawsuit filed by the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs, an organization for terminally ill patients and their supporters. It sued the commissioner of the FDA and the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asserting that patients had a right to try risky, unproven treatments to save their own lives.
The Food Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits anyone from using new drugs “unless and until” they have been approved by the FDA, a process that takes about seven years for the average experimental drug. The alliance said the FDA should shorten the process for terminally ill patients and let them use drugs that have passed only the first of several phases of clinical trials.
The appeals court held that a right to experimental drugs was not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition. In a dissent, Judge Judith Rogers found it “startling” that the “right to try to save one’s life is left out in the cold despite its textual anchor in the right to life.”
The high court declined review without comment. See the Jan. 14 orders list.