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Minnesota Lawmakers Send Right To Try Act to Governor Dayton

May 1, 2015

St. Paul—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 with a bipartisan, unanimous vote, and a near unanimous vote in the Senate. Governor Mark Dayton has 3 days to sign or veto the bill once it reaches his desk.

SF100—The Minnesota Right to Try Act–was sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers led by State Representative Nick Zerwas and State Senator Branden Petersen. Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being used in clinical trials.

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 Tennessee and Florida have sent a similar bill to their governor for approval. The legislation has been introduced in 20 other states this year. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute.

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.”

“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 Dayton has the opportunity to help thousands of Minnesotans with this bill. We hope he signs it without delay,” said Olsen.

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