by Rachel McPherson

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed Right to Try into law, opening up the opportunity for those suffering from terminal illnesses to gain access to medication still being tested in clinical trials, while offering protection to doctors and pharmaceutical companies who come to patients’ aid.

This week, Goldwater Institute Senior Policy Advisor Starlee Coleman appeared on Houston Public Media’s “Houston Matters” radio show to discuss how patients can benefit from the law:

“Over one million patients per year hear from their doctors that there is no treatment left for them and that it’s time to get their affairs in order. What their doctors really mean is that there is no available approved treatment left, but there might be something in the pipeline that could help extend a person’s life and in some cases even save their life.”

Right to Try opens a new pathway for terminally ill patients who are out of options and can’t get into a clinical trial to access treatments. Because clinical trials are so difficult to get into, many patients are left without access to treatments that might be able to help them before it’s too late. Starlee gave one example of just how many people are unable to access potentially beneficial drugs:

“The FDA process only helps about 1,000 individual patients per year, and we simply don’t think that is enough. There are 40,000 women who will die of breast cancer this year, and you can’t tell me that only 1,000 of those women would like the opportunity to try drugs that are in clinical trials.”

Right to Try allows patients, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies to assess treatment options on a case-by-case basis—without having to get the government’s approval. This individualized approach to medicine also offers patients the opportunity to extend or even save their lives—an opportunity that should not be exclusively reserved for patients in clinical trials.

Listen to the full “Houston Matters” segment with Starlee Coleman here.

Rachel McPherson is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.