Columbia, SC—A law giving terminally ill patients access to medicines that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves has passed the South Carolina House with overwhelming bipartisan support, and with unanimous bipartisan support in the state Senate. The bill has been sent to Governor Nikki Haley for her signature.
The South Carolina Right To Try Act, HB 4542, was sponsored by a bipartisan coalition led by State Representative Cezar McKnight and State Senators Paul Campbell and Ray Cleary. Right To Try allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines being safely used in clinical trials.
Right To Try is already law in 28 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The law is under consideration in half-a-dozen additional states this year. The national bipartisan effort to give terminally ill Americans access to investigational medications is being led by the Goldwater Institute. The Palmetto Promise Institute worked with the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in South Carolina.
“The Right to Try is about the right to try to save your life,” said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “Every year a million Americans with terminal diagnoses will hear from their doctor that there are no options left, and it’s time to get their affairs in order. What doctors really mean is that in their toolbox of approved medicines, there’s nothing left. But the truth is there are more than 500 treatments just for cancer stuck in the FDA’s pipeline right now; many already available in Europe. The Right to Try gives patients access to those medicines.”
Palmetto Promise Institute President Ellen Weaver commented, “We were honored to work as local partners with the Goldwater Institute to bring this common sense idea to South Carolina. Expanding access to trial drugs and therapies that the FDA has found to be safe empowers terminally ill South Carolinians with options in their hour of greatest need.”
She continued, “We congratulate Senators Paul Campbell and Ray Cleary and Representative Cezar McKnight, whose bipartisan teamwork on this issue represents the finest of the Palmetto State’s spirit.”
The FDA has a process that allows people to ask permission to access investigational medicines, but only approximately 1,000 people a year receive help. Others die while waiting on their approval.
“Patients shouldn’t have to beg the federal government for permission to try to save their own lives. If you were on a sinking ship, would you pass on the only available lifeboat because the government hadn’t certified it yet? No, you’d say, put the lifeboat in the water. Right To Try gets the lifeboats in the water,” said Olsen.
Right To Try is limited to patients with a terminal disease that have exhausted all conventional treatment options and cannot enroll in a clinical trial. All medications available under the law must have successfully completed basic safety testing and be part of the FDA’s on-going approval process.
Read more about the bureaucratic structure of the FDA that keeps promising treatments out of the hands of terminal patients in this Goldwater Institute report, Dead on Arrival.