NEWS: “Right to Try” Legislation Proposed to Help the Terminally Ill in Alaska

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Legislation Will Reduce Wait Times for Patients to Use Experimental Drugs

December 30, 2015

FAIRBANKS – Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) and Representative Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) will introduce a “right to try” bill in the upcoming 2nd Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature. The bill will be the House companion to SB 113, which was introduced by Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) in April.

The “right to try” legislation would reduce wait times for terminally ill patients to access experimental drugs following consultation with their doctors.  The bill also seeks to protect doctors, hospitals, and manufacturers from prosecution and allow patients to request drugs that passed the first FDA clinical trial stage, when a drug is determined to be safe for human consumption.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made attempts to make the application process easier but the federal “compassionate use” program can still take too long for terminally ill patients to gain access to life-saving drugs in time.  State-level “right to try” laws can reduce the wait time to two weeks or even four days for the terminally ill who cannot afford to wait a month or longer.

“When terminally ill patients have exhausted all other FDA-approved options, many have tragically passed away waiting for government approval to try experimental drugs that were later approved for their condition,” said Rep. Kawasaki.  “Our bill would cut red tape for patients and their doctors and give them more flexibility and privacy in formulating a treatment plan that could save their lives.”

In the last two years alone, more than 20 states have introduced similar legislation and 13 states signed similar bills into law following nearly unanimous bipartisan support.

“The ultimate goal of this bill is to give patients as many options as possible and increase access to potentially life-saving drugs,” said Rep. Drummond.  “Terminally ill patients should make their own health care choices without waiting for a slow-moving approval process.  We need to start talking about how we treat terminally ill patients.  It’s not an easy topic, but this is one of the ways we can start making changes.”

The proposed “right to try” legislation would not reduce the cost or mandate insurance coverage for experimental drugs.  However, it is the first step toward opening more treatment options in Alaska for the terminally ill.

Abigail Alliance, Rare Disease Legislative Advocates, the EveryLife Foundation, and a number of other legislative advocates for patients suffering with Hepatitis C, Parkinson ’s disease, Muscular Dystrophy and other terminal diseases support similar state-based “right to try” legislation.

For more information, contact Rep. Kawasaki’s office at (907) 456-7423, Rep. Drummond’s office at (907) 269-0190, or Sen. Wielechowski’s office at (907) 269-0120.



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