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Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate to Protect State-Passed Right To Try Laws

June 20, 2016

Washington, D.C.—Today Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced legislation that prevents the federal government from interfering with the implementation of state “Right To Try” laws.

Right To Try laws allow terminally ill patients, under a doctor’s direction, to access treatments that are being safely used in clinical trials but may be years away from final FDA approval. Frustrated by a lack of access to lifesaving medicines, patients and legislators across country have driven the adoption of Right To Try laws. Since 2014, 28 states have passed the law with overwhelming bipartisan and only a handful of dissenting votes.

Right To Try is now law in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. At least 15 more states have introduced the measures.

While states have clear legal authority to protect the right of patients to try to save their lives by accessing promising treatments under these laws, Sen. Johnson’s bill formally recognizes that right and sends a clear message that the federal government won’t interfere.

“Americans have spoken with a unanimous voice. People should have the right to try to save their lives when their mortality is on the line. Without these laws, fewer than 5 percent of patients with terminal illnesses will gain access to the most promising drugs available to the select few in clinical trials. These laws open the door to treatment for more patients,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “Right To Try laws are saving lives today.”

In response to the rapid adoption of Right To Try laws, the FDA has announced two changes to its complex process for accessing investigational drugs. The first change is a proposal to shorten the application process to access drugs in clinical trials; the second is a proposal to make navigating the entire system simpler. “We are glad to see the FDA revisiting its process for the first time in decades, but rather than make it easier to navigate the FDA roadblocks, the FDA should remove the roadblocks entirely and let patients, under a doctor’s care, access safe treatments. No free person should have to ask the federal government’s permission to save his own life,” said Olsen.

Senator Johnson’s legislation is the counterpart to a bill that was introduced in the U.S. House last summer. The bipartisan H.R. 3012 now has more than 20 cosponsors.

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.

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

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.



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