Annapolis, MD—A law protecting the right of terminally ill patients to pursue treatments that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves has been passed unanimously by the Maryland State House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan (R). The Maryland Right To Try Act, HB 584, was sponsored by Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D) and Senator Bryan Simonaire (R). Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being safely used in clinical trials.
“When you're diagnosed with a terminal illness such as ALS, and there is no effective treatment or cure, all you have to hold on to is hope, and this law will give people hope,” said Lauren Saah, a Gaithersburg resident whose mother recently passed away from ALS. “In March, my mom mustered up the energy to travel with me to the state capitol to testify in support of Right to Try, just 4 weeks before she lost her 20-month fight with ALS. Even though she knew she may not benefit from this law, she was passionate about fighting for others to have a chance to try something that could potentially be life-saving, there is no side effect worse than the ultimate outcome. I'm honored to have been a witness to the bill signing, and I know my mom is proud.”
Right To Try laws have been already adopted in 36 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The law was introduced in the other 13 states this year. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute.
“Millions of Americans will die this year from terminal illnesses for which there are treatments and cures in the FDA approval pipeline; but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Darcy Olsen, CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “We congratulate Del. Lewis Young, Sen. Simonaire, and all of their colleagues on their work to get promising treatments in the hands of people who need options today.”
About 40,000 women with breast cancer will hear from their doctor this year that there are no treatment options left. But there are 22 pioneering breast cancer treatments waiting for the FDA’s green light; some of them are already available and saving lives in Europe. The FDA has a process that allows people to ask permission to access investigational medicines, but only approximately 1,300 people a year receive help. Others die while waiting on their approval.
“Patients shouldn’t have to beg the federal government for permission to try to save their own lives. If you were on a sinking ship, would you pass on the only available lifeboat because the government hadn’t certified it yet? No. You’d say, ‘put the lifeboat in the water.’ Right To Try gets the lifeboats in the water,” said Olsen.
Right To Try is limited to patients with a terminal disease that have exhausted all conventional treatment options and cannot enroll in a clinical trial. All medications available under the law must have successfully completed basic safety testing and be part of the FDA’s on-going approval process.
Read more about the bureaucratic structure of the FDA that keeps promising treatments out of the hands of terminal patients in this Goldwater Institute report, Dead on Arrival.