The cruel reality is that in the United States, thousands of people every year suffer and die while treatments that could help them are awaiting the outcome of a slow, bureaucratic federal process—a process that takes, on average, 14 years before potentially lifesaving treatments can receive final government approval for sale.
The Right to Try movement was born to change that. Right to Try is a declaration that in our free country, people diagnosed with a terminal illness should be able to decide for themselves – in consultation with their doctors – whether to try investigational medicines that could prolong or even save their lives. Americans shouldn’t be forced to travel to other countries to get the lifesaving treatments they need. It’s a basic constitutional right – a basic human right – to fight for one’s life.
We certainly weren’t the first to recognize this problem. But decades of efforts to change the system in Washington met with little success. So, we worked with patients, doctors, and policymakers nationwide to craft a new approach – an approach that began in the states. We didn’t seek a different way to beg the FDA for permission. Instead, we joined with our sister state organizations to tear up the permission slip.
Thanks to this state-based strategy, Right to Try has been a spectacular success. Bills have been introduced in every state, and 40 have adopted Right to Try laws. They’ve done so in a bipartisan fashion. It’s never been about Republicans or Democrats—it’s always been about principles – and people.
State Right to Try laws helped save patients across the country. When federal rules prohibited Houston Doctor Ebrahim Delpassand from treating cancer patients with a medicine that had already completed three rounds of FDA testing and has been available in Europe for years, he invoked Texas’s Right to Try law and treated nearly 200 patients—many of whom had been told they had only months to live, but are still alive today. For those patients, Right to Try has been the right to hope – the opportunity to strive – the opportunity to choose what chances to take and how to answer one of life’s hardest questions.
Right to Try offers the freedom movement hope in another way too. As California’s Right to Try sponsor, Assemblyman Ian Calderon told the Sacramento Bee, “the only way you can get change from the FDA is pressure from the states.” With 40 states adopting Right to Try, many with unanimous consent of their legislatures, Washington could no longer turn a blind eye. And so today – only four years since Colorado enacted the first state Right to Try law – President Donald Trump signed S.204, making Right to Try the law of the land.
The lesson we glean from the state-driven Right to Try movement is that the solution to Washington’s problems isn’t always in Washington. It’s in our own hands. Members of the State Policy Network can work together bring change in our 50 state capitols to protect our freedoms when the federal government fails.
The success of Right to Try shows that we have it in our power to fix many national problems from the ground up. Together, we can unleash the power of freedom to empower people to live freer, happier, more hopeful lives.