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Should terminally ill patients have the right to take drugs that pass phase I testing? Yes

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39244.451192.AD (Published 06 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:478
  1. Emil J Freireich, professor
  1. Special Medical Education Programs, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA
  1. efreirei{at}mdanderson.org

    The United States is considering allowing experimental drugs to be given to people at the end of life. Emil J Freireich believes patients should be able to judge the risks for themselves, and Dean Gesme counters that use of such drugs outside trials will damage both individuals and science

    Around half a million people will die from cancer related causes in the United States this year. In the US, as in much of the Western world, patients know their diagnosis and are often given a hopeless prognosis. For most, the option of participating in phase I and phase II clinical trials of new drugs that offer some promise helps them remain optimistic. Clearly, they should have the right to take drugs that have passed phase I testing.

    The problem is that most cancer patients cannot participate in phase II trials because they are either ineligible or they are unable to fulfil the financial and social requirements for participating in such trials, such as staying in the centres conducting these trials, sometimes …

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