Protecting Patients

Innovative medical treatment is essential to the development of medicine and we need to be constantly moving forward. However, in a world where we are constantly confronted with ‘the new’ and it is lauded as the next great thing, there is an assumption that new automatically means better. This assumption is reflected in the ongoing push around the world to speed up access to drugs and treatments that have not completed the development phase and are not yet on the market. There was of course the so-called ‘Saatchi Bill’ (medical innovation Bill) in the United Kingdom and now, in the United States, there is an expanding group of ‘Right to Try Laws’. Whilst development of the law is crucial (after all, we do not always want law to be found, ‘keeping up with medicine but in the rear and limping a little’ (Mt Isa Mines v Pusey), care needs to be taken to ensure an appropriate balance between the rights-based discourse and the reality of exposing potentially vulnerable patients to risk. There have been some interesting discussions in the media in the United States, see for example: “How do we protect patients from false promises in Right-to-try laws” and “Federal right to try bills remove crucial patient safeguards“.

Innovation is essential – but so is patient care, and attention needs to be paid to these international debates before we consider any similar developments here in Australia.

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