Rauner signs law allowing ‘right to try’ experimental drugs

Heather Weiner

Heather Weiner is formerly the Illinois Policy’s Government Affairs Staff Attorney.

Heather Weiner
August 5, 2015

Rauner signs law allowing ‘right to try’ experimental drugs

The Right to Try Act will allow terminally ill patients access to experimental medical treatments.

On Aug. 5, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 1335, also known as the Right to Try Act, which could save lives and provide hope to Illinoisans with terminal illnesses.

The Right to Try Act gives Illinoisans with terminal illnesses access to experimental drugs and treatments after they have exhausted standard treatment options. These patients, who would be eligible under the law provided they have a diagnosed life expectancy of two years or less, were previously precluded from trying potentially life-saving treatments due to the long approval process established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. The investigational treatments to which these patients will gain access have passed preliminary safety tests by the FDA, but are not yet approved for general use.

The bill was an encouraging bipartisan success. It was proposed by the free-market Goldwater Institute and sponsored by state Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Wheaton, and state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago. The Right to Try Act passed both chambers of the General Assembly almost unanimously. Illinois Policy Action supported this bill.

The Right to Try Act promotes liberty for both patients and doctors, allowing doctors to provide the care and counseling they are trained to give and granting patients decision-making power over their own treatment strategies.

Connelly described how vital it is to give patients and their families the power to make decisions about their care and to gather information about all treatment options: “If there is a chance that a patient suffering from a terminal illness may improve from access to experimental medications, and if the patient is willing to and chooses to accept that risk, government should not stand in the way.”

The bill does not compel pharmaceutical companies or insurance providers to provide or pay for these experimental drugs.

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