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New Hope for Patients: Goldwater Expands Right to Try in Mississippi

April 23, 2024

A decade ago, a tidal wave of patient-centric healthcare reform began to sweep America when Colorado became the first state to enact the Right to Try, a groundbreaking Goldwater Institute law that allowed terminally ill patients to seek potentially lifesaving treatments without begging the federal government for permission. Goldwater would go on to enact Right to Try in 40 more states and, in 2018, at the federal level. Now, a new wave of reform is gaining steam as Mississippi today became the third state to adopt Goldwater’s Right to Try for Individualized Treatments. Senate Bill 2858, which Governor Tate Reeves signed into law after the Mississippi Legislature passed the reform with overwhelming margins, extends the Right to Try to cutting-edge, highly specialized treatments that are tailor-made for each individual.

“Americans should be free to use all available treatments when dealing with life-threatening illnesses,” said Victor Riches, President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “Mississippi’s landmark Right to Try expansion ensures patients will have access to innovative, life-saving treatments—and signals to the rest of the country that states don’t have to wait on the FDA to put patients first.”

Mississippi has a long history of leadership when it comes to standing up for patients. In 2015, Mississippi’s legislature approved Goldwater’s first Right to Try reform, landmark legislation sponsored by Senator Josh 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 (FDA) approval process.

Right to Try is saving lives in Mississippi and around the country as pharmaceutical companies use Right to Try to treat entire groups of patients in promising new ways. But today, the latest innovations in medicine are made specifically for each patient, based on their genetics, and by definition cannot go through the FDA’s outdated regulatory processes in a timely manner. That’s why the Right to Try for Individualized Treatments (also known as Right to Try 2.0), which enjoyed overwhelming backing in the Mississippi Legislature thanks to a groundswell of support from patient advocates, is the natural next step.

About 30 million Americans suffer from rare diseases for which there are no treatments or cures, and half of those are children. Mississippi is home to countless people who are searching for hope, and Right to Try 2.0 helps get new innovations in medicine to the patients who need them the most. It’s a truly nonpartisan effort, with legislators putting patients first and working together to solve a problem that is confronting Americans of all backgrounds.

“We can’t let red tape stop children from getting lifesaving care,” Senator Harkins said recently. “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 Riley family of Arizona, whose infant daughter Keira was diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic brain disease, exemplifies why Right to Try 2.0 is so urgently needed. A specialized type of gene therapy could help Keira, but it wasn’t available in the U.S. due to FDA restrictions, so the Rileys had to move to Italy to save baby Keira’s life. Keira has since turned 4 years old, and she shows no sign of the disease.

“It brings tears to my eyes thinking of all the other special needs families out there who have always held on to hope for a chance like this,” Keira’s mom, Kendra, testified before Arizona became the first state to enact Right to Try 2.0.

Mississippi and Arizona aren’t alone in pursuing this important reform. Nevada expanded the Right to Try in 2023, and more states are expected to follow suit as critically ill patients around the country desperately seek new hope.

That’s exactly what Right to Try 2.0 offers: A chance at hope. A chance at healing. A chance at life.

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

Read more Right to Try success stories here. Find out more about Right to Try 2.0 here.

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.



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