Access to Medical Treatment Act
This week's exciting news is HR 2635, The Access to Medical Treatment Act. I urge all of you to write to your state senators and to your congressional representatives asking them to support HR2635 (or the Senate version, Bill no. 1955) for the 106th Congress.
HR 2635 was introduced by Representatives Peter DeFazio and Dan Burton (R.-Indiana), along with 20 other co-sponsors. The bill creates a federal statutory right for consumers to use unapproved drugs and devices, so long as they and their practitioners follow safeguards outlined in the legislation.
These safeguards include:
- Informing consumers fully about the risks and benefits of an unapproved treatment or device.
- Consumers must get the drug or device from a practitioner authorized to practice in their state, who has not made any advertising claims about the unapproved product.
- These products can only be sold at cost.
- The practitioner cannot exceed the scope of his or her practice.
This legislation is exciting because it restores consumers' rights to make their own decisions about how they will prevent and treat disease. It also removes some of the federal interference in the doctor-patient relationship. The bill is designed to encourage patients to remain in the United States for treatments that they now must travel to Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, or even Russia or China to receive. It is also designed to eliminate consumers obtaining drugs or devices from illegal sources or questionable clinics.
The legislation also opens the door for physicians to use drugs and devices that are available in other countries but not approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. Some foreign companies who produce quality products are not willing to spend the estimated $320 million and ten years of research in the United States that they have already spent and done in their own countries. When products are not patentable, foreign companies have no hope of recouping the costs involved in getting FDA approval. As a result, patients must travel overseas or to Mexico or Canada to receive some desired treatments.
The bill will presumably save the federal government money by reducing its costs of policing treatments. Doctors using alternative medicines along with other alternative practitioners will be more free to use therapies in which they believe with less fear of government harassment, censure, or loss of license.
The physician and signer of the U.S. Constitution, Benjamin Rush said, "Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship to restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others; the Constitution of the Republic should make a special privilege for medical freedms as well as religious freedoms." Benjamin Rush's picture appears on the seal of the American Psychiatric Assocation, and he is considered the "father" of American psychiatry.
The bill ensures that practitioners would not be subject to disciplinary action solely because their treatment methods are considered unorthodox by the medical establishment.
The bill does not foster practitioners to act any less diligently on behalf of their patients, shield doctors from malpractice claims, circumvent the FDA approval process for pharmaceuticals.
What this means for parents of children with developmental or neurological problems is that travel to the Caribbean (for stem cells), or to Mexico (for fibroblast growth factor), or to Eastern Europe may soon be unnecessary. Cancer patients will be able to obtain all in the U.S. that they currently travel to Mexico, the Bahamas, or Russia for.