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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Right to Try / Rolling Back the ACA

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Oct 14, 2017 12:00 PM
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On the Monday October 16th, 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

Governor Wolf signed the 'Right to Try' bill into law on Wednesday; House Bill 45, which passed the house unanimously, allows terminally ill Pennsylvanians to try experimental drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  Manufacturers of drugs or medical devices that are still in trial phase can distribute it to a patient with the recommendation of a physician.  Pennsylvania is the 38th state to pass such a law.

The bill was penned by Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery County, after he used an experimental drug to treat bone marrow cancer.  "Faced with certain death, terminally ill patients do not have the luxury of time and have likely exhausted all other available options," said Godshall in a press release. "If they want to try medications that have not completed the rigorous FDA testing and approval process, they should be permitted to do so. House Bill 45 would give them that choice."

Opponents of 'Right to Try' laws argue the policies undermine the safety net provided by the FDA and recommending experimental medications could become ethically challenging for doctors and insurers, alike.  Manufacturers worry about the liabilities associated with distributing non-approved drugs. 

"There is no incentive whatsoever for any FDA regulated manufacturer to participate in the putative Pennsylvania Right To Try program, and every reason for them to refrain from doing so," contends James Beck, counsel resident in the Philadelphia office of the law firm of  Reed Smith and co-author of the Drug and Medical Device Product Liability Handbook.  "It's an empty gesture - intended to distract the public from the legislature's inability to perform its most basic constitutional duties," Beck continues.

On the Monday edition of Smart Talk, we'll parse out House Bill 45 and speak with Christina Sandefur, Executive Vice President of the Goldwater Institute - a public policy think tank that has advocated for the use of experimental medicines since 1988.  We'll also speak with James Beck about his opposition to 'Right to Try' laws.

Also, the Trump administration is ending the cost-sharing subsidies that helped low-income recipients of Obamacare; 426,000 Pennsylvanians receive their healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchange.  "Where that will impact consumers, eventually, is that insurers will then add those costs onto their premium rates," said Pennsylvania Insurance Department spokesman Ron Ruman.

Smart Talk will discuss the impact of the White House's decision on Pennsylvanians and insurers in the state with WITF's Transforming Health reporter, Brett Sholtis.

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