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Tennessee Lawmakers Send Right To Try Act to Governor Haslam

April 17, 2015

Nashville—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 and Senate on a unanimous vote. Governor Bill Haslam has 10 days to sign or veto the bill once it reaches his desk.

HB0143—The Tennessee Right to Try Act—is sponsored by State Representatives Jon Lundberg, Goins, Butt, Weaver, McManus, Terry, Daniel. Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being used in clinical trials.

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:

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 Oklahoma have sent a similar bill to their governor for approval. Twenty additional states are considering the law this year. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute. The Institute worked with the Beacon Center and the bill sponsors on this legislation.

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




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