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Minnesota Becomes 16th State to Allow Terminally Ill to Access Investigational Medications

May 6, 2015

St. Paul—Governor Mark Dayton has signed SF100—The Minnesota Right to Try Act—into law. The Right to Try Act allows doctors to prescribe medicines to the terminally ill that are being used in clinical trials but are not yet on pharmacy shelves. Right To Try expands access to potentially life-saving treatments years before patients would normally be able to access them. The bill was sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers led by State Representative Nick Zerwas and State Senator Branden Petersen.

“We all know the pain of losing someone we love to a terminal illness,” said Darcy Olsen, the president of the Goldwater Institute, the group leading the national, bipartisan Right To Try effort. “If you know there’s a treatment that is helping people survive, who is anyone to say ‘No; you don’t have the right to try to save your own life or to save your child’s life’? Of course you do. Of course people should have the right to try promising medicines when they are fighting for their lives.”

Right To Try laws are already in place in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Lawmakers in Florida and Tennessee have sent a similar bill to their governor for approval. The law was introduced in 20 additional states this year.

Representative Nick Zerwas was the face of the Right To Try effort in Minnesota, as he has personal experience with an investigational medical procedure. When he was a child, Zerwas needed a heart transplant, but the transplant never came. By 15, he had made his funeral arrangements with his parents. But he was offered a second-chance at life through an experimental heart surgery. The surgery worked and now Zerwas, as a Minnesota lawmaker, says he has “a passion for finding solutions that enable our state to deliver lifesaving health care to those who need it.”

The FDA has a process that allows individual patients 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 for an inhumane system that prevents the vast majority of Americans with terminal illnesses from accessing promising investigational treatments. Compassionate use should be the rule for everyone, not the exception,” said Olsen.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have 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.

“This law will give terminally ill people in Minnesota hope when they need it most,” said Olsen.

Follow progress of the national Right To Try movement on Facebook.




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