NEWS: Alaska House Unanimously Passes Right to Try for Terminally Ill Alaskans

Rep. Jason Grenn

HB 43 Allows the Terminally Ill to Try Experimental Drugs in an Effort to Save Their Own Lives

April 10, 2017

Juneau – The Alaska House of Representatives today unanimously passed legislation to increase patient rights in Alaska.  House Bill 43, also known as the “Right to Try” bill, is 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 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.

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

Similar legislation to HB 43 has passed in 34 states with strong, bi-partisan support, and is pending in 14 others, including Alaska.

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.

“The FDA’s process for approving medications in the United States most certainly serves a purpose, but there are times when government red tape goes too far,” said House Health and Social Services Chair Rep. Ivy Spohnholz.  “No one should face a death sentence 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.  

“When battling a terminal illness, time is your enemy,” said Rep. Grenn. “HB 43 allows patients, families, and doctors to explore every possible chance of survival.”

House Bill 43 passed the Alaska House of Representatives today by a vote of 40-0.  The bill now goes to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

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


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