Fallin’s signature puts “Right-to-Try” into Oklahoma law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Mary Fallin’s recent spate of bill signings included House Bill 1074, the “right-to-try” measure covered this spring by CapitolBeatOK.

“On behalf of all of those Oklahomans waiting, with no more time to wait, for lifesaving medications and for all those who now may never face such a dreadful reality, I am grateful to Governor Fallin for signing my bill, H.B. 1074, Right to Try, into law,” stated Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City (District 92). 

Morrissette was House sponsor for the proposal.

Right to Try gives people with terminal illnesses the legal right to use “investigational medications” years before they might otherwise be available on the market.

“No one can guarantee that a particular treatment will be effective, but these laws return choice and control over treatment options to where it is most effective: with patients and their doctors,” Morrissette continued.

“We need to remove barriers that limit doctors from providing the care they are trained to give—and this is exactly what Right to Try does. It brings the medical control back to the local level, between patient and doctor. Right to Try laws are not a guarantee but they give terminally ill patients one more opportunity to save or extend their own lives. 

We hope H.B. 1074 will serve to support the overall existing medical trial process and actually contribute in a positive way to expedite delivery of useful medications into the open marketplace.”

Under Right to Try, a terminal patient would be able to access an investigational medicine if:

* The patient has a terminal disease and has exhausted all conventional treatment options;
* The patient’s doctor has advised the use of an investigational medication is the best medical option to extend or save the patient’s life;
* The medication has successfully completed basic safety testing and is part of the FDA’s on-­‐going approval process;
* The patient has provided “informed consent” acknowledging the potential risk of the drug; and
* The company developing the medication is willing to make it available to the patient.

“I thank the Goldwater Institute’s Kurt Altman, National Policy Advisor, Christina Sandefer, Senior Attorney and Craig Handzlik, State Policy Coordinator for their expertise and professionalism,” Morrissette said after the governor’s signature was affixed to the bill.

“Americans shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to try to save their own lives,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “They should be able to work with their doctors directly to decide what potentially life-saving treatments they are willing to try. This is exactly what Right To Try does.”

State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, shepherded the proposal to overwhelming support in the upper chamber. In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, he said the measure was “a right to life issue that must be addressed.”

He continued, “Everyone deserves the right to try to save their own life if they so choose. Unfortunately, in Oklahoma and many other states, terminally-ill patients have no rights when it comes to deciding their own fate because of restrictive laws on investigational treatments.

“This bill [will] make promising medications available to those who are simply out of options.

It doesn’t make sense for the government to tell someone who is dying that they can’t try an experimental drug because of possible side effects. Side effects mean nothing to someone who has only months to live.”

According to a release distributed earlier this year, Right to Try is already law in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, and Missouri, where it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Twenty-eight states in addition to Oklahoma had similar measures under consideration this year.

According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, it normally takes 5.5 to 10.5 years for a drug to receive FDA approval, and Standridge reflected that is time that terminally-ill patients don’t have.

Under the new law, manufacturers would not be required to make experimental treatments available to eligible patients. Health insurance companies wouldn’t be required to provide coverage for such products either. A licensing board could not take action against a provider based solely on their recommendations to an eligible patient regarding access to, or treatment with, such products.

Additionally, the measure would not create a private cause of action against a manufacturer or against any other person or entity involved in the care of an eligible patient using such products.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.