Right to Try

Will All Seriously Ill Americans Be Granted the 'Right to Try' Experimental Meds?

Senate approves bill giving some earlier access to treatment.


Maska82 / Dreamstime

A state-level movement to allow Americans who are seriously and potentially terminally ill to access medication earlier in the approval process may successfully be going national.

The U.S. Senate has approved—by unanimous consent—Senate Bill 204, sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and pushed by the libertarian Arizona-based Goldwater Institute. It mimics legislation in 37 states that allows for people with life-threatening illnesses earlier access to medication being evaluated through the very lengthy Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process.

To be clear, this "right to try" legislation does not create a free-for-all when it comes to access to experimental medicine. The bill requires that a person have a life-threatening illness or disease and that the drug in question has already completed the first phase of clinical trials for the FDA.

Furthermore it does not require drug manufacturers or dispensers to provide access if they don't want to, and they cannot be held liable if they refuse (and they can't be held liable if the drug causes harm except in cases of misconduct or negligence). And as a compromise for critics worried about the ethics of letting people access drugs early, drug manufactures who do provide medicine as part of this process will need to report to the government any adverse effects.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where two Republican congressmen have already introduced companion legislation. In a release praising the passage of Johnson's bill, the Goldwater Institute notes how state-level right-to-try laws actually help:

Right to Try is saving lives already. In Texas alone, Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand has helped nearly 100 patients under his state law, providing a treatment that has completed clinical trials but is not yet fully approved for advanced stage neuroendocrine cancer. Many of these patients were told they had only months to live but are still alive a year later, thanks to Right to Try.

Reason has been covering the "Right to Try" movement for years now. Below, watch a ReasonTV explanation video from 2015 about the efforts:

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  1. Wait, who is “granting” rights now? We already have the right to try anything we want. The question is which rights will the government respect, and which ones will it claim the authority to infringe or ignore.

    1. The idea of inalienable rights is sooo late-18th century. The Enlightenment is over, man!

      1. Well, God is dead and since Natural Rights rest upon the notion of a deity than this isn’t too surprising. Or, wait, are we saying that Natural Rights derive from Gaia these days? I’ve heard that a few times, although the people who say it rarely use the name Gaia specifically but refer to her as ‘Nature’ or some such.

        Can a secular society respect natural rights? It would appear that the answer is barely, so far.

        1. I think it’s possible, but it requires a widespread, clear understanding of the difference between positive rights and negative rights.

          1. If rights don’t come from a deity, than the problem is they are positive rights. I mean, maybe it isn’t a problem functionally but philosophically it is. Not that anyone really cares, I’d think.

            1. You don’t need a deity to notice the difference between “thou shalt do for others” and “thou shalt not do to others.” It’s the essence of basic respect for other people as individuals separate from oneself.

              1. Like I said, functionally it might not be an issue but philosophically it is. Natural rights are ‘inalienable’ precisely because they flow from a higher power. Otherwise, it’s just a human construct that’s just as subject to change as anything else which makes them eminently alienable.

                Just saying.

                1. Otherwise, it’s just a human construct that’s just as subject to change as anything else which makes them eminently alienable.

                  Just like every other moral point in existence. Either people respect others or they don’t. Why they do or don’t is irrelevant.

                  1. Just like every other moral point in existence. Either people respect others or they don’t. Why they do or don’t is irrelevant.

                    Hmm…I’d say it’s pretty relevant but this conversation will go nowhere I think.

                    I’ll simply say that it’s not intended as an attack on natural rights but rather an invitation to think about them more. Nothing more and nothing less.

                    1. I’m technically agreeing with you, not arguing against your point (I think). As far as I’m concerned, morals are personal and everyone has their own individual moral compass.

                      In theory my reason for respect your rights is irrelevant to you. You’re just happy that I am. My hope is that you’ll return the favor. Because if you don’t then that tells me that I don’t need to continue. And so on ad infinitum.

            2. The problem isn’t + vs. -, the problem is “ought” vs. “is”. The assertion of natural rights (or natural law) is that what ought to be (actually an opinion) is a reality. That’s just plain silly.-

      2. Time for the Reenlightenment.

        I’m all for this. If my tumor recurs, I want all the options I can get.

        1. Good to see that you’re apparently doing better.

          1. “‘Old friend!'” You’ve managed to kill just about everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target!”

            Thanks. Doing well.

  2. Do we use the rule of headlines asking a question to answer this?

  3. So ultimately this is movement in the right direction even if the government’s theory here is that you can only try things that they say are safe for you, even if you don’t give a fuck if it’s safe or if it kills you.

    I find it amusing that the FDA essentially admits that it’s been helping to kill people for decades, and their way of saying ‘sorry’ is a carve-out instead of a rollback or outright disbanding of a Federal Monolith.

    1. Not FDA, Congress. FDA can neither carve anything out nor roll anything back.

      1. Ha!

        Thinks that federal agencies need to get congress’s permission for what they do

  4. I’m seriously sick to death of the government telling me they have the right to tell me what substances I can and cannot put into my own body. Can we get a research group to see if free access to recreational drugs cures this condition?

    1. Note: “free” access in the meaning of no restraint on my access, not “free” as in somebody else should be forced to pay for my shit. Sad that this probably can’t go without saying.

    2. Vaping hasn’t proven to be safe.

      1. And while we’re at it, neither has oxygen. It causes explosions, in fact.

  5. I like that a reverse death panel will be created. I’m going to call them life panels. And then I’m going to accuse them of shilling for corporate interests hellbent on selling hope to those with little of it.

  6. Fighting for freedom, but only if I’m dying


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