COVINGTON – Will a new law help people with terminal illnesses who are running out of options?
A Covington man thinks the “Right to Try” Act, recently signed into law by President Donald Trump, could prolong his life, but leaders in the medical community aren’t so sure.
It’s hard to imagine anyone more active than Dudley Jourdan. He was a New Orleans firefighter, musician, avid golfer and bicyclist. Then, in his 50s, he was diagnosed with ALS.
“(The doctor) said you might as well go home and get your life tin order because you’ve got two-to-five years,” Jourdan remembered.
That was 15 years ago. Lou Gehrig’s disease is slowly destroying Jourdan’s body, but leaving his mind perfectly intact. A while back, he got an experimental adult stem cell infusion that helped.
“My family told me my speech got better and my strength got a little bit better and also my walking got a lot better,” Jourdan said.
Two years later, his health declined again. Jourdan watched this week as the President signed the “Right to Try” bill, a patient-led initiative allowing terminally ill people to bypass the FDA and get unapproved or experimental medications.
Jourdan is excited for the possibilities, but the Director of LSU’s Health Cancer Center says it’s still unclear if this new law could make a difference.
“I think time will tell to see what the real impact of this is going to be,” Dr. Augusto Ochoa said. “I think the reality is there's already mechanisms that are very similar in place. Is this going to significantly change the process? We don't know.”
The LSU Cancer Center oversees 400 cancer patients in 50 groundbreaking clinical trials for people who don’t qualify for the investigational drugs. There’s also what’s known as “compassionate use” already in place where doctors ask the FDA to quickly approve a treatment not on the market for patients in desperate need.
Doctors are concerned new drugs that have not been rigorously tested could make a very sick person worse.
For Jourdan, the science is not as important as the emotional boost the new law gives him.
“Might as well try everything,” he said. “If it kills me it might help somebody else.”