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Oklahoma Becomes 15th State to Allow Terminally Ill to Access Investigational Medications

April 22, 2015

Oklahoma City—Governor Mary Fallin has signed House Bill 1074—The Oklahoma 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 in the House by Rep. Richard Morrissette (D) and in the Senate by Senator and Pharmacist Rob Standridge (R).

“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, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Lawmakers in Tennessee have sent a similar bill to their governor for approval. Twenty additional states are considering the law this year.

Angeline Trudell is an Oklahoma mom with ALS who could be helped by Right To Try. Angeline was diagnosed with ALS in December 2014. In just the few short months since her diagnosis, she has lost the ability to walk, to use her hands and arms, to sit up straight, bathe herself, and even roll over in her own bed. Before ALS, she was an active mom of four and a veterinary technician. Angeline says, “Then ALS came calling. It is slowly and insidiously stealing my life away from me. It is tearing my family apart. Everything I love is being stolen away from me. And I am only 51.” There is a drug that has passed an FDA Phase I safety test that is showing results in slowing the progression of ALS in the people who are taking it in clinical trials. Now, Angeline can request that drug for herself.

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 Oklahoma hope when they need it most,” said Olsen.

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




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