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Idaho Becomes 25th State To Authorize 'Right to Try' Unapproved Medicines

Charles Williams
Flickr -

Idaho has become the 25th state to authorize terminally-ill patients to request unapproved, investigational drugs and treatments. The concept -- also new in Oregon -- has come to be known as the “Right to Try.”

Without ceremony, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed Right to Try into law after it passed through the state legislature with wide bipartisan majorities. The measure allows patients with terminal diagnoses to ask for experimental drugs or devices which have not yet received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

State Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said she sponsored to law to give hope to dying people. They can be frustrated by the lengthy approval process for new drugs.

“This bill releases liability from physicians, hospitals and insurers,” Wintrow said. “It puts the autonomy in the patient’s hands to save their own life.”

Patients would have to take full responsibility to pay for the experimental medicines.

Last summer, Oregon’s legislature approved the same Right to Try concept. It took effect in Oregon this January.

The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which describes itself as being dedicated to “limited government,” gets credit for promoting Right to Try around the country. The nonprofit circulated a model law for legislators to consider.

The California legislature also passed a Right to Try Act last year, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation in October.

“Patients with life threatening conditions should be able to try experimental drugs, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s compassionate use program allows this to happen,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “The proposed changes to this program will streamline access to these drugs. Before authorizing an alternative state pathway, we should give this federal expedited process a chance to work.”

In the states where Right to Try has passed, a terminally-ill patient can ask a manufacturer to provide an investigational drug or device that has cleared the basic safety testing required by the FDA. The patient’s physician would need to give his or her recommendation. If granted access to the experimental treatment, the patient bypasses the potentially years-long wait for efficacy trials to be completed.

Drug manufacturers are not required under the Idaho legislation to provide access to experimental drugs if they don’t want to.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.