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Hope on the Horizon as Mississippi Lawmakers Advance Right to Try Expansion

April 15, 2024

Hope is on the horizon for patients in Mississippi after lawmakers voted to send a new reform known as the “Lifesaving Treatment Act” on to Governor Tate Reeves for his consideration and approval. If enacted, this reform would remove government barriers to potentially lifesaving personalized treatments in the state.

Championed by Senator Josh Harkins, and modeled after the Goldwater Institute’s Right to Try for Individualized TreatmentsSenate Bill 2858 empowers patients with rare and ultra-rare diseases to work with their physicians to seek innovative, highly specialized treatments that are as unique as they are.

With nearly 80% of rare diseases estimated to be genetic in nature, it is no surprise that access to innovative, individualized gene therapies is top of mind for many patients. Fortunately, new technologies and recent advances in modern medicine have made it possible for researchers to tailor treatments to an individual patient using his or her own genetics. If signed into law by Governor Reeves, Senate Bill 2858 will protect the right of patients to pursue these customized treatments at the recommendation of their physicians and in concert with strong patient protections.

Mississippi legislators have a long history of leadership when it comes to standing up for patients. In 2015, Mississippi’s legislature approved Goldwater’s Right to Try reform, landmark legislation sponsored by Senator Harkins and designed to protect the right of terminally ill patients to access investigational treatments advancing through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.

SB 2858 builds on this successful history and demonstrates the ongoing commitment of Mississippi lawmakers to protect and empower patients with rare diseases.

Hannah Lowe is the mother of a young boy who is suffering from a rare and fatal form of childhood muscular dystrophy. She and her family know firsthand how devastating a rare disease diagnosis is, and how essential it is that parents have the opportunity to pursue lifesaving treatments for their children without having to beg the government for permission first.

“Under the current regulatory framework, the process for getting new treatments into patients is long, and this is time that we do not have,” Hannah noted in testimony before the Maryland legislature, which recently approved a similar reform. “We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for laws…that would allow medical treatments to be developed faster with appropriate safety and efficacy measures, and under physician care and guidance for people for whom there are no treatments and no cures.”

Mississippi is not alone in pursuing this critical reform. In 2022, Arizona became the first state to enact the Right to Try for Individualized Treatments, with Nevada following close behind in 2023. This session, California, Iowa, and Maryland have also introduced similar models.

“We can’t let red tape stop children from getting lifesaving care,” Senator Harkins said. “Other countries are using individualized treatments to offer hope to patients with cancer and rare diseases. Two states have already passed this legislation: Arizona and Nevada. We owe it to the children and parents of Mississippi to get this done.”

The Goldwater Institute thanks Senator Harkins, Senator Hob Bryan, and Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann for their dedication to this reform, and commends the Mississippi Senate for standing up for the state’s most vulnerable patients.

This Institute also thanks the many patients and supporters who have engaged on this issue nationwide, and expresses its sincere thanks to Governor Reeves for his consideration of the Lifesaving Treatment Act.

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute, where she leads the Institute’s national legislative affairs strategy.



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