Aug 3, 2017

Senate votes to let dying patients try unproven treatments

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The Senate has passed Sen. Ron Johnson's "right to try" bill, which would expand terminally ill patients' access to treatments that haven't yet been approved by the FDA. The bill passed by unanimous consent, and should help clear the way to vote on a larger FDA bill before senators break for the August recess.

Why it matters: On its face, right-to-try sounds simple enough: Why not let patients who are already dying, who have already tried everything else, take a shot at an unproven therapy? But the risk with unproven drugs isn't only that they might be ineffective — they also can carry side effects that might make patients' suffering worse. Regulators have also worried about maintaining the integrity of controlled clinical trials.

To address some of those concerns, the Senate bill says the FDA can't use data from right-to-try patients in its product reviews. The bill also wouldn't force drug makers to make their unproven products available — it simply says the federal government can't stand in the way of that transaction.

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George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

4 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

Klobuchar squares off with Buttigieg on immigration

Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."