Washington State Becomes 35th State to Adopt Right To Try Act for Terminally Ill Patients

Olympia, WA—A law protecting the right of terminally ill patients to pursue treatments that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves has been passed unanimously by the Washington State House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee (D). The Washington Right To Try Act, SB 5035, was sponsored by Senator Jamie Pedersen (D). Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being safely used in clinical trials.

Right To Try laws have been already adopted in 34 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, 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 the other 15 states this year and is pending approval from the Governors of Iowa and Maryland. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute.

“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, CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “We congratulate Sen. Pedersen 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.

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 RightToTry.org.

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.