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Mississippi Becomes 12th State to Allow Terminally Ill to Access Investigational Medications

March 31, 2015

Jackson—Today Governor Phil Bryant signed SB 2485—the Mississippi 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.

“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.”

Three Right To Try bills were introduced in Mississippi this session; SB 2485 is the bill that made it across the finish line with bipartisan support. Senator Josh Harkins and Representative Chris Brown led the effort with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy also worked with the Goldwater Institute and lawmakers to help bring Right To Try to Mississippi.

Right To Try laws are already in place in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Lawmakers in Montana have sent a similar bill to their governor for approval. Twenty additional states are considering the law this year.

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 lipstick on a pig, 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.

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