Rep. Jason Grenn

Rep. Jason Grenn

Terminally Ill Alaskans Now Afforded the Right to Try Experimental Life Saving Treatments

Juneau – Today, the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed legislation to increase patient rights in Alaska. House Bill 43, also known as the “Right to Try” bill, was sponsored by Representative Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage). It allows terminally ill patients who have exhausted all FDA-approved treatment options and do not qualify for clinical trials to gain faster access to safe but experimental drugs in an effort to save or extend their own lives.

Over one million Americans die from a terminal illness every year. Many spend years searching for a potential cure or struggling in vain to get accepted into a clinical trial. In fact, of those patients who apply for clinical trials fewer than three percent are accepted. For the other 97 percent new treatments seem out of reach.

“When battling a terminal illness, time is your enemy,” said Rep. Grenn. “I’m thankful for the full support of the House and Senate in passing this bill to cut government red tape and give Alaskan patients, families, and doctors the ability to explore every possible chance of survival.”

With the passage of HB 43, Alaska joins 38 other states in affording their citizens diagnosed with a terminal illness the right to access to experimental treatments.

While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a program in place for accessing investigational drugs outside of clinical trials, given the incredibly time-consuming and complicated process, only about 1,200 people make it through each year. Even with recent efforts by the FDA to shorten the application form, final approval has proven arduous, taking longer than patients facing terminal illness have to wait.

“I was proud to carry this common-sense legislation on the Senate floor today,” said Senator von Imhof. “For someone facing terminal illness, every single day counts. It’s one more day to get your affairs in order, one more day to spend with your family. No one should lose out on those moments due to a bureaucratic process.”

By providing certain immunities to prescribing physicians, manufacturers, and distributors acting in good faith, HB 43 gives terminally ill Alaskans, in consultation with their doctor, the freedom to try new treatments as they fight to survive, without the burden of waiting for federal approval. All treatments available under the law must have successfully completed Phase 1 basic safety testing and remain in the FDA’s ongoing approval process.

“This is an issue that goes beyond party lines,” said Rep. Grenn. “The right to attempt to save one’s own life is fundamental, and terminally ill Alaskans deserve the same access to treatments as those living other parts of the country.”

House Bill 43 passed the Alaska State Senate today by a vote of 20-0. Last year, the bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives by a vote of 40-0. HB 43 will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

For more information, please contact Brooke Ivy in Rep. Grenn’s office at (907) 465-3892.

Drew Cason
Deputy Press Secretary, Alaska House Majority Coalition
Phone: (907) 575-2068