Right to Try

Scott Shackford on AIDS History and 'Right to Try' Activism at the Launch of Freethink



I'm pleased as punch today to play a very small role in the launch of media site Freethink.

If that media outlet name sounds familiar, it may be from one of two things (or both!): Freethink's Honor Flight Veterans Day documentary that we've highlighted here at Reason; or from Freethink Media partner Kmele Foster, formerly of The Independents and currently participating in "The Fifth Column" podcast with Matt Welch.

Today they've rolled out the first of a series of "shows," video segments about innovation in tech, policy, and culture, with some additional useful contextual articles.

Here's Freethink's stated mission:

Each week, we release a new video featuring passionate innovators who are solving humanity's biggest challenges by thinking differently. From aerospace engineers in the Mojave Desert to entrepreneurs in South America's biggest slum, our videos give you an intimate look at not only what they're doing but also why they're doing it, the obstacles they face, and what motivates them to keep driving forward.

We're betting that after you watch these stories, you'll come away with insights and inspiration you can use to make a difference in your own way.

Today's release is titled "Superhuman," a package about the scientific, medical, and engineering innovations that are helping cure diseases once thought incurable, replace body parts, and otherwise improve and prolong human life.

My own contribution is a short background piece explaining how AIDS activism in the late 1980s and early 1990s served as the spiritual precursor to the current "right to try" movement. That's the increasingly successful effort to grant citizens with life-threatening conditions to right to try to get access to potentially helpful drugs before the full government testing process has been completed. Here's an excerpt:

In the late 1980s, Americans were dying by the thousands from the opportunistic infections that came from full-blown AIDS. There was a single drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration permitted to help prolong the lives of people with AIDS. This first drug, azidothymidine—or AZT—was approved for use in AIDS patients in what was a remarkably fast process for the FDA at the time: 25 months.

But AZT had some very serious side effects that caused other health threats, and not all AIDS patients could endure the treatment. The lack of "officially" approved treatment options gave rise to a large black market to provide access to non-permitted and foreign medicines in order to bypass the FDA.

This black market was most famously highlighted in the 2013 Academy Award-winning film "Dallas Buyers Club," based on real-life drug smuggler (and AIDS patient) Ron Woodroof. Woodroof was not unique. There were groups of people across the country working to bring drugs into the United States from Mexico, Europe, and elsewhere, regardless of the FDA's approval process.

Read my full piece here. And watch and read the other components of "Superhuman" at Freethink here. Some additional pieces are contributed by a name many Reasoners may find familiar: former Reason Associate Editor Mike Riggs.

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  1. Kmele is involved? Say no more – I’m in.

    1. I want to see video of him interacting with the BLM protesters near his building.

  2. RE: Scott Shackford on AIDS History and ‘Right to Try’ Activism at the Launch of Freethink
    “Here’s Freethink’s stated mission:

    This is why The State must have a monopoly on the press. Allowing the common riff-raff to inspect such horror stories as entrepreneurs in South American slums to engage in the counter-revolutionary practices of capitalism would only horrify and disgust those little people who view such ugly and counter-productive ideas capitalism has to offer. The State would never allow such disgusting and vile videos to be screened for public consumption. Instead, The State would only air the politically correct mantras that would keep the unenlightened masses safe by televising all the joys and wonders their socialist totalitarian state has to offer them. This way, the little people will be satisfied in the socio-economic station so conveniently provided by their kind and beneficent ruling class vermin. There would be no cause the question The State or our intrinsically entitled betters. Joy, peace and a uniformed commitment to The State and our socialist slavers would run much more smoothly and efficiently as the mass media in this country dedicates to the just and benevolent cause of socialist totalitarianism and all the wonders and miracles it can and will produce for the sake of the little people, and most of all, those who enslave us all. Hopefully, someday, there will be such a political entity that will do just that.
    We can only hope and pray.

  3. That’s the increasingly successful effort to grant citizens with life-threatening conditions to right to try to get access to potentially helpful drugs before the full government testing process has been completed. Here’s an excerpt:

    I always wondered if the ‘right-to-try’ movement might have been better characterized as the ‘permission-to-try’ movement. It’s not a rubber stamp, it’s permission from the FDA, to qualifying patients (you’re dying) to get access to drugs which haven’t been through the full FDA process. I’m not knocking it, it’s certainly better than the alternative for people with incurable diseases, but it’s hardly a right if it’s carefully meted out by agents of the government.

  4. South Park was right.

  5. Can I force the FDA to make me a rat poison cake?

  6. Who is paying for these drugs?

    The US Federal taxpayer is already spending over 30 billion on AIDS

    And that does not count State, Local taxpayers and Insurance rate payers who are forced to pay via their premiums


  7. Right To Try, AIDS

    The Right to Try AIDS?

  8. AIDS activism in the late 1980s and early 1990s served as the spiritual successor to the current “right to try” movement.


    1. My thought was “progenitor”, but yours is probably better. Some people’s clocks seem to run backwards w words like “ancestor”.

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