First Right-To-Try Drug Might Be Sold for Profit

The head of a small biotechnology company points out that businesses need to make money.

Adding fuel to an already raging debate about right-to-try drugs, a company called Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics is developing an experimental drug for terminal patients who have Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and that drug won’t be cheap. The new drug is called NurOwn. The Right To Try legislation signed into law last month by President Trump allows doctors to bargain directly with pharmaceutical companies to obtain drugs for dying patients in a last ditch effort.

The law establishes a process by which the FDA and insurers are bypassed. Bloomberg reports: “Critics said the lack of oversight may make patients even more vulnerable as they near death, creating opportunities for unscrupulous companies or clinics to take advantage of them.”

Proponents of right to try coached their support in altruistic terms: Why not give dying patients a drug that might work a miracle? Problem is that mainly insurgent startup biotech companies would want to make such drugs. Brainstorm CEO Chaim Lebovits tells Bloomberg: “Companies cannot be NGOs. We have to have an incentive.” Lebovits says the price for the new biologic is still under consideration but did mention that new biologics for cancer can cost in the neighborhood of $300,000.

Lebovits tells Bloomberg that Brainstorm will try to get funding from charitable organizations, the goal being to pay for at least one financially struggling patient for every two who are able to pay for NurOwn.