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Alabama Lawmakers Send Right To Try Act to Governor Bentley

May 29, 2015

Montgomery, Ala.—A law to give terminally ill patients access to medicines that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves has passed the state House and Senate with bipartisan, unanimous support. Governor Robert Bentley has 6 days to sign or veto the bill once it reaches his desk. Senate Bill 357—The Alabama Right to Try Act—was sponsored by Senator Cam Ward. Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being used in clinical trials.

Ten-year-old Gabe Griffin has been the face of the Right To Try effort in Alabama. Gabe has a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Duchenne. Duchenne typically leaves its young victims wheelchair-bound by age 12 and shortens their life expectancy to just 20 years. Drugs in development today could help keep Gabe out of a wheelchair and add years to his life. But he doesn’t have time to wait years for the FDA to finish its final approval process.

Right To Try laws are already in place in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Lawmakers in Florida, Illinois, and Texas have sent similar bills to their governor for approval. The legislation has been introduced in 17 other states this year. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute.

“Americans shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to try to save their own lives,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “They should be able to work with their doctors directly to decide what potentially life-saving treatments they are willing to try. This is exactly what Right To Try does—it removes barriers that limit medical practitioners from providing care they are trained to give.”

The FDA has a process that allows people to ask permission to access investigational medicines, but fewer than 1,000 people a year receive help. Others die while waiting on their approval. The FDA recently announced plans to shorten the application form. “A simpler form is window dressing on an archaic and inhumane system that prevents the vast majority of Americans with terminal illnesses from accessing promising investigational treatments. Patients must still beg the federal government for permission to try to save their own lives—it’s just a shorter form,” said Olsen.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both editorialized that the Right To Try movement is prompting long overdue change at the FDA.

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.

“Governor Bentley has the opportunity to help thousands of Alabamans who need access to treatments today. The sooner he signs, the sooner they can start working with their doctors on accessing new medications,” said Olsen.

Follow progress of the national Right To Try movement on Facebook or at RightToTry.org.

The Goldwater Institute has teamed up with an Indiana mother on a Change.org petition in support of Right To Try that has gathered more than 93,000 signatures in just two weeks.

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