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Tennessee Becomes 17th State to Allow Terminally Ill Access to Investigational Medications

June 11, 2015

Originally written by Jake Depew for Jefferson County Post

The Right To Try Act allows doctors to prescribe treatments 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.”

Right To Try laws are already in place in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. The law has been introduced in 20 additional states this year.

Amanda Wilcox, a young vocal artist in Nashville, has been the face of the Right To Try effort in Tennessee. Wilcox has colon and thyroid cancer and has not responded to available treatments. She wants the right to try investigational medicines that could help her. You can watch a video of Amanda’s story here:

The FDA allows individual patients to file an application for 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.

The Tennessee Right to Try Act was sponsored by State Representatives Jon Lundberg, Goins, Butt, Weaver, McManus, Terry, Daniel. The Beacon Center was also instrumental in passing the law.

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

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



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