Right-to-try gains support

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Congress is considering easing federal laws prohibiting terminally ill patients from trying unapproved experimental drugs as a last-ditch effort to extend or save their lives.

Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee were urged in late February to push for so-called “right to try” legislation that would grant an exception for dying patients to use drugs that have passed the first step of the FDA's investigation process but are still in clinical trials. 

Nearly half of all states, ranging from Mississippi to Colorado, have passed similar “right to try” laws, according to the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based libertarian think tank leading the effort. In Illinois, for example, patient advocates from AIDs and ALS groups have supported such efforts, arguing they allow patients and their doctors to make critical healthcare decisions without government intrusion. 

Diego Morris, a college student with a potentially deadly form of cancer, reportedly told the Senate panel his family was forced to move from the U.S. to London so he could obtain experimental treatment. 

One physician opposing the proposal has argued that patients' time would be better spent using approved drugs rather than “chasing expensive and unavailable experimental drugs.”