Missouri became the third state to give patients the right to save their own lives Monday evening, as Gov. Jay Nixon (D-MO) signed legislation that will enable terminally ill patients to access safe experimental medications that could save their lives. Colorado and Louisiana approved similar measures known as "Right to Try" reforms earlier this summer, and Arizona voters will consider the measure on the November ballot.
On Wednesday, Michigan lawmakers will consider the Right to Try Act in a senate health committee.
Designed by the Goldwater Institute, the Right to Try Act enables terminally ill patients under the care of their doctors and cooperating drug companies to receive potentially life-saving medications that have been deemed safe by the FDA but are still years away from being approved for market.
More than a million Americans die each year of terminal illness. Yet it takes more than a decade and a billion dollars to bring a single life-saving treatment to market, and fewer than three percent of the sickest patients are able to access drugs through clinical trials. This means that thousands of Americans are dying each year unable to access potentially life-saving medicines.
"The Right to Try Act is about guaranteeing the rights of those who are most in need," said Rep. Jim Neely (R-MO), who sponsored the legislation in Missouri. "People fighting for their lives shouldn't have to battle red tape. The Right to Try Act gives terminally ill patients a chance to continue their fight when they are left with no other options."
For Neely, a medical doctor, the Right to Try Act hits close to home. His own daughter, Kristina, 40, has been fighting colon cancer for more than a year but has been disqualified from clinical trial opportunities because she was pregnant at the time of her diagnosis. Now, liver failure from her rapidly progressing disease has left Kristina with even fewer treatment options. While there are hundreds of clinical trials being conducted to study new colon cancer treatments that could give Neely's daughter more time, she has been unable to access them because they won't reach the market for several more years.
According to Neely, Right to Try will restore hope to patients just like Kristina, who are dying knowing that there may be a drug in existence that could help them, but who haven't been allowed to have it under the current system.
"This is about saving lives when our loved ones are out of options," said Darcy Olsen, President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. "We will continue to work throughout the country to ensure all Americans have the right to try to save their own lives."
The Goldwater Institute is working with lawmakers in Michigan this week to pass Right to Try in Michigan before the end of the year. The legislation will be voted on in a Michigan Senate committee on Wednesday.
The Right to Try Act has already been introduced in Delaware, Minnesota, and New Jersey, with numerous other state lawmakers planning to introduce the reform in 2015.
For more information, watch Goldwater CEO Darcy Olsen and Communications Director Lucy Caldwell discuss Right to Try here. To schedule an interview with the Goldwater Institute, please contact Charles Siler at the Goldwater Institute at (602) 633-8960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are affiliated with a national network, the Goldwater Institute has an in-house VideoLink studio for rapid cable hook-up at no cost, and can additionally make available Institute spokespeople for live in-person interviews.