Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Right To Try Act for Terminally Ill Patients

Frankfort, KY—Today a law protecting the right of terminally ill patients to access to medicines that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves was passed by the Kentucky State House 87-7. The law previously passed in the State Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support. The Kentucky Right To Try Act, SB 21, was sponsored by State Senator C.B. Embry, Jr. Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being safely used in clinical trials.

“Now some who have terminal illnesses, with no hope for life, will be given a chance. I think they deserve that chance. Treatments that have passed the first round of trials, but are not yet approved by the FDA, may be made available,” said Senator Embry.

Right To Try laws have been already adopted in 33 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The law was introduced in another 16 states this year. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute. Americans for Prosperity – Kentucky led the in-state efforts to raise awareness of the need for this legislation.

“Millions of Americans will die this year from terminal illnesses for which there are treatments and cures in the FDA approval pipeline; but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “We congratulate Senator Embry, and all of his colleagues, on their work to get promising treatments in the hands of people who need options today.”

About 40,000 women with breast cancer will hear from their doctor this year that there are no treatment options left. But there are 22 pioneering breast cancer treatments waiting for the FDA’s green light; some of them are already available and saving lives in Europe. The FDA has a process that allows people to ask permission to access investigational medicines, but only approximately 1,300 people a year receive help. Others die while waiting on their approval.

“Patients shouldn’t have to beg the federal government for permission to try to save their own lives. If you were on a sinking ship, would you pass on the only available lifeboat because the government hadn’t certified it yet? No. You’d say, put the lifeboat in the water. Right To Try gets the lifeboats in the water,” said Olsen.

Lebanon, Kentucky mother Natalie Wheatley wrote in the Louisville Courier Journal that the law will give families with terminally ill patients like hers hope.

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.

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

Read more about the bureaucratic structure of the FDA that keeps promising treatments out of the hands of terminal patients in this Goldwater Institute report, Dead on Arrival.