On June 12, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a brand-new piece of legislation known as Charlie’s Law. It may mean nothing to people outside of Texas, but it should. Charlie’s Law helps make regenerative medicine research easier by allowing certain patients to participate in experimental studies that could eventually benefit others across the United States.
Charlie’s Law, named after the late Rep. Charlie Howard, expands existing Texas right-to-try laws. Such laws give access to experimental medical treatments to chronically ill and terminal patients who willingly demonstrate their interest in participating. This particular law expands the kinds of treatments covered to include regenerative medicine procedures like stem cell therapy.
According to TMC News, Charlie’s Law is the first law of its kind in the country. It is a law that has widespread support in Texas, as evidenced by its unanimous passage earlier this year. With Charlie’s Law now in effect, Americans who might otherwise travel overseas to receive stem cell therapies unapproved by the FDA will, under certain conditions, be able to access those therapies in Texas.
The Right to Try Healing
What Texas has done in passing Charlie’s Law is nothing less than impressive. For decades, there has been serious debate over regenerative medicine procedures. Those who resist things like stem cell therapy claim that regenerative medicine is questionable in both its results and safety, while those who promote it are quick to point to voluminous research and anecdotal evidence proving its efficacy.
The truth about stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures is probably in the middle of the two extremes. Nonetheless, Charlie’s Law really boils down to whether certain patients should have the right to try experimental procedures if they are of sound mind. The Texas Legislature and Governor believe they should.
Count James T. Wilkerson, M.D. among those who support Charlie’s Law. In his introduction to a recent panel discussion covering Charlie’s Law, Wilkerson explained how human stem cells start becoming dysfunctional sometime around the age of 60. He explained how helping those stem cells with additional therapy could mean successful treatments for a range of illnesses and injuries. Wilkerson specifically mentioned treatments for the heart and spinal cord.
To Texans, it boils down to the individual right to try healing in whatever form that takes. If a terminally ill person wants to try an unapproved stem cell treatment in the absence of anything else proven to work, he or she should have that right.
What It Means for Us
For all of us who do not live in Texas, Charlie’s Law is still important. First, there may be those among us suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses with plans to travel overseas for treatment. Those treatments may soon be available in Texas now that right-to-try laws have been expanded through Charlie’s Law.
Second, researchers and clinicians now have a reason to bring experimental regenerative medicine to Texas. It may be that Charlie’s Law leads directly to future cures for all sorts of terminal illnesses. It could be that some of us will enjoy longer and more productive lives as a result of research that will take place in Texas in the coming months and years.
At Apex Biologix outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, doctors are trained to use stem cell therapies for certain kinds of musculoskeletal injuries. Thanks to the foresight of leaders in Texas, Apex could be training doctors in the future to use stem cell therapy to treat heart disease, heal spinal cord injuries, and who knows what else.