Frequently Searched

Texas Becomes 21st State to Allow Terminally Ill to Access Investigational Medications

June 13, 2015

Austin—Governor Greg Abbott has signed HB 21—The Texas Right To Try Act—into law. 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.”

Andrea Sloan was the face of the Right To Try effort in Texas. Andrea was a well-known and respected Austin attorney who helped victims of domestic violence. When Andrea was diagnosed with ovarian cancer her doctors recommended a treatment that was still under development, but the FDA took too long to approve her application. She died on January 1, 2014. Andrea’s story was the inspiration for lawmakers as they passed this bill to simplify the process for terminally ill people to access investigational treatments.

Right To Try laws are already in place in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. The law has been introduced in 15 additional states this year.

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 Texas Right To Try Act was sponsored by State Senator Paul Bettencourt and Representative Kyle Kacal and was supported with near unanimous bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Michelle Wittenburg, Sloan’s best friend, led the effort to pass the bill in Texas.

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

Follow progress of the national Right To Try movement on Facebook or at

The Goldwater Institute has teamed up with an Indiana mother on a petition in support of Right To Try that has gathered more than 95,000 signatures in less than a month.




More on this issue

Donate Now

Help all Americans live freer, happier lives. Join the Goldwater Institute as we defend and strengthen freedom in all 50 states.

Donate Now

Since 1988, the Goldwater Institute has been in the liberty business — defending and promoting freedom, and achieving more than 400 victories in all 50 states. Donate today to help support our mission.

We Protect Your Rights

Our attorneys defend individual rights and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Need Help? Submit a case.

Get Connected to Goldwater

Sign up for the latest news, event updates, and more.