Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The House will vote today on a bill that would expand terminally ill patients' access to medical products that are still being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Most Democrats are still expected to oppose it.

Why this matters: Access to these experimental medicines could give one last option to people with none left, although it's unclear how many doctors, drug makers and patients would take advantage of this new option.

The details: The so-called "right to try" bill would let terminally ill patients buy unapproved treatments. Critics had long been wary that such a step could undermine the rigorous clinical trials the FDA uses to approve or reject new treatments. But a revised bill released over the weekend includes some significant changes designed to address those concerns.

  • The definition of eligible patients was narrowed.
  • Informed consent requirements were strengthened and reporting requirements for side effects were tightened.
  • The FDA was given more flexibility to determine how "right to try" uses will impact a drug's approval.
  • It equalizes liability for doctors and drug makers under both right to try and an existing pathway to use experimental drugs, to avoid incentivizing one over the other.

Between the lines: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb outlined a set of patient protections when he testified on right to try before Congress in the fall. All of them were included rrein this version of the bill.

Yet, but: Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, came out yesterday with a strong statement against the bill, saying it "puts vulnerable patients at risk by completely removing the Food and Drug Administration from the review or oversight of access to investigational therapies."

  • "This legislation simply is not needed," he added, citing an existing program that gives patients the ability to use an unapproved medication outside of a clinical trial.
  • Supporters point out that products must have cleared several steps of the FDA approval process before they can be accessed through "right to try."

The big question is how much use right to try will get. Although many states have their own laws allowing it, takers have been limited.

  • On the other hand, there's an argument to be made that because federal law preempts state law when it comes to regulation of medicine, doctors and drug makers have been slow to take advantage of state right to try laws because they're afraid of legal consequences.

Go deeper

44 mins ago - World

Countries waiting to see if Trump wins before moving on Israel normalization

The delegation lands at Israel's Ben Gurion airport. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty

The White House is attempting to leverage momentum from Israel's normalization deals with Bahrain and the UAE to get more Arab countries on board before the U.S. election.

Driving the news: President Trump wants Sudan's removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list to be accompanied by a pre-election announcement on Israel.

Poll: 92% of battleground state voters are "extremely motivated to vote"

Voters stand in line at the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center in Houston, Texas, on Oct. 13. Photo: Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images

91% of likely voters nationally say they are "extremely motivated to vote," including 92% in battleground states Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to a Change Research/CNBC Poll.

Why it matters: The 2020 election could see record-breaking levels of voter turnout. Voters last week cast ballots at nearly five times the rate they did at this point in the 2016 election, per the U.S. Elections Project. Over 39 million ballots have been cast in early voting states as of Wednesday.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to plead guilty to 3 criminal charges

Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a rally and die-in last year outside New Yorks Southern District Federal Court in White Plains, where Purdue Pharmaceuticals' bankruptcy hearing was being held. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges Wednesday as part of a more than $8 billion settlement with the Justice Department, AP reports.

Why it matters: "The settlement is the highest-profile display yet of the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible for an opioid addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the country since 2000," AP notes.