A single copy of this article may be reprinted for personal, noncommercial use only.
What is compassionate use of experimental drugs?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/compassionate-use/AN02061
- With Mayo Clinic medical oncologist
Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.read biographyclose window
Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.Timothy Moynihan, M.D.
"As a practicing medical oncologist, I meet with patients and families every day to help manage their course through this disease called cancer. This experience provides unique insight into the needs of cancer patients, their families and loved ones and brings into sharp focus the need for reliable information to be readily available in terms that can be easily understood." — Dr. Timothy Moynihan
Dr. Timothy Moynihan believes that providing consumers with accurate, timely information on the broad, complex topic of cancer is the biggest challenge facing medical websites. As the guiding force behind our cancer content, he makes sure Mayo Clinic meets the test.
Dr. Moynihan, born in Las Vegas, N.M., and raised in Denver, is a consultant in medical oncology at Mayo Clinic and an associate professor at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minn. He's board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hospice and palliative care medicine.
He did his medical oncology training at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and then went on to the University of Minnesota and St. Paul Regions Medical Center for seven years before moving to Mayo Clinic in 1999. Dr. Moynihan is medical director of the Mayo Clinic hospice.
Dr. Moynihan serves as the education chair for the Department of Oncology and the fellowship program director. Four times he has been selected as Teacher of the Year in medical oncology and elected to the Teacher of the Year Hall of Fame.
Past honors include distinguished clinical teacher at the University of Minnesota Medical School, best internist at the Medical College of Wisconsin and recipient of the Upjohn Achievement Award for Excellence in Medicine. Dr. Moynihan serves on several national committees for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"The Internet provides a ready source of information on a wide range of topics of interest to those affected by cancer," Dr. Moynihan says. "The difficulty is trying to decide which sites provide reputable information and which information is relevant to each individual patient. The long history and tradition of excellence associated with Mayo Clinic assures you that information provided will be reliable, up-to-date and comprehensive."
Consumer health basics (5)
- Osteopathic medicine: What kind of doctor is a D.O.?
- What is compassionate use of experimental drugs?
- After a flood, are food and medicine safe to use?
- see all in Consumer health basics
Alternative medicine (28)
- Kombucha tea: Does it have health benefits?
- Do infrared saunas have any health benefits?
- Aromatherapy: Is it worthwhile?
- see all in Alternative medicine
- Antibiotics and alcohol: Should I avoid mixing them?
- Grapefruit juice: Beware of dangerous medication interactions
- Bioidentical hormones: Are they safer?
- see all in Medications
What is compassionate use of experimental drugs?
I've heard that compassionate use is a way to get access to experimental treatments. How does it work?
from Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.
In certain situations, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows companies to provide their experimental drugs to people outside of clinical trials. This is referred to as compassionate use. But getting access to not-yet-approved drugs through a compassionate use request can be a long and challenging process.
If you're interested in trying an experimental treatment, talk to your doctor about your options. For you to receive an experimental drug through the compassionate use program, your doctor must contact the drug company and then submit an application to the FDA. For the FDA to consider your request, you must meet certain criteria:
- Your disease is serious or immediately life-threatening.
- No treatment is available or you haven't been helped by approved treatments for your disease.
- You aren't eligible for clinical trials of the experimental drug.
- Your doctor agrees that you have no other options and may benefit from the experimental treatment.
- The company that makes the drug agrees to provide it to you.
To find out more about the rules regarding compassionate use, visit the FDA website and search for "access to investigational drugs."
Another way to get access to experimental treatments is through expanded access studies. In these studies, experimental drugs in the later stages of clinical trials are offered to people who don't qualify for the clinical trials. To find out if a drug is available this way, contact the drug's manufacturer. Or go to ClinicalTrials.gov and search for "expanded access studies."
As you consider whether to try to obtain an experimental treatment, it's important to keep a few things in mind:
- You aren't guaranteed to benefit. Experimental drugs haven't been approved by the FDA, and their efficacy may not yet be proved.
- The risks of the drug may be unknown. Experimental drugs may not have been fully tested, so the range of side effects may be unknown.
- Some companies don't give access to experimental drugs. Drug companies aren't required to comply with your request for an experimental drug. The company you ask could refuse your request.
- Your doctor may not agree with your request. Your doctor might be unwilling to pursue your request if he or she thinks an experimental drug is dangerous or ineffective for your condition. You can ask for a second opinion from another doctor or seek advice from groups that advocate for people with your disease.
- You may pay out of pocket for experimental treatment. The drug company may charge you for the experimental drug. Also, your insurance company is unlikely to pay associated costs of your treatment, such as fees for your doctor to administer the experimental drug and monitor side effects.
- Getting an answer may take time. Unless your situation is an emergency, the review process may take some time. Because each compassionate use application is decided on a case-by-case basis, there is no set timeline and no one can predict how long you'll wait for an answer.
After a flood, are food and medicine safe to use?
- Access to investigational drugs outside of a clinical trial (expanded access). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForPatientAdvocates/AccesstoInvestigationalDrugs/ucm176098.htm. Accessed Oct. 19, 2011.
- Access to investigational drugs. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/investigational-drug-access. Accessed Oct. 19, 2011.
- Compassionate drug use. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_1_2x_Compassionate_Drug_Use.asp. Accessed Oct. 19, 2011.