Health Law

No Right of Access to Drugs, Court Rules

An en banc federal appeals court ruled today that patients don’t have a constitutional right of access to experimental drugs that have passed limited safety trials.

The ruling (PDF) by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found no due process right of access, How Appealing reports.

An advocacy group for terminally ill patients had challenged the federal law that generally bars access to new drugs until they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The group claimed the lengthy approval process amounts to a death sentence for some patients.

But the en banc panel rejected the group’s constitutional argument in an 8-2 ruling.

“We conclude that there is no fundamental right ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition’ of access to experimental drugs for the terminally ill,” the majority decision said. “To the contrary, our nation’s history evidences increasing regulation of drugs as both the ability of government to address these risks has increased and the risks associated with drugs have become apparent.”

A divided three-judge panel of the same court had found a right of access last year. The two judges in the panel majority dissented from the en banc ruling, according to How Appealing.

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