Private equity firm wants to get into experimental drug business

Maia Anderson - Print  | 

Private equity firm Vivaris Capital is looking for investors to help it create a chain of cancer centers that would focus on giving patients experimental drugs under the federal Right to Try law, STAT reported. 

The Right to Try law was passed in 2018 to allow seriously ill patients to get drugs that are still under development without needing to enroll in a clinical trial. 

The law was created in response to frustration with the FDA's Expanded Access program, which also allows patients to obtain experimental drugs without being enrolled in a clinical trial, but patient advocacy groups argued the program was "cumbersome and arbitrary," according to STAT

The Right to Try law hasn't been used often, as drugmakers aren't required to provide the drugs and are often hesitant to do so for fear that any side effects may hurt their chances of getting formal FDA approval, STAT reported. 

Vivaris Capital is looking to create United Cancer Centers, which it describes as the "first institutional healthcare system" in the U.S. to offer "integrative cancer care," according to STAT

Some experts expressed concern that Vivaris Capital's cancer centers would be designed to make a profit from cancer patients. Patients would be required to pay for the cost of any experimental drug, since insurers typically don't cover the cost of unapproved drugs. 

"To me, [the press release] translates to: 'profit on the backs of desperately ill and dying patients who will be willing to pay whatever we charge for a remote chance of saving their lives,'" Holly Fernandez Lynch, an assistant professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told STAT

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