December 24, 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, the Goldwater Institute is looking back at some of the efforts we’ve been most proud of this year—and looking ahead to where we’re going in 2020.

In 2018, after years of work on the part of the Goldwater Institute and countless advocates and allies, Right to Try became federal law, helping to give terminal patients access to investigational treatments that could prolong or even save their lives. Now, one year on from the signing of the federal legislation, we’re seeing it improve the lives of patients and their families.

Matt Bellina is one of those patients. A former U.S. Navy pilot, Matt lives with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and since the time of his diagnosis in 2014, he had exhausted the treatment options available to him. He became a strong advocate for the Right to Try, believing all terminally ill Americans should have the right to try to save their own lives. Early this year, Matt announced via his Facebook page that he is undergoing treatment for ALS under the federal Right to Try law. Since beginning the treatment called NurOwn (currently in Phase 3 trials), he has become better able to play and talk with his young sons and eat a meal with his family. “I have been given a gift,” Matt wrote about his treatment. “Because this is an investigational therapy we don’t know what tomorrow will bring but for now we are feeling incredibly blessed,” he continued.

Matt is an inspiration to us at the Goldwater Institute, and so we were honored to present him with the Freedom Award at our Annual Dinner in November in recognition of his tireless work on Right to Try. In his acceptance speech, he said that Right to Try is “consistent with the ideal of individual liberty and the infinite potential for anyone brave enough to pursue it…The path to grace has always been through rugged individualism and I am here tonight to thank all of you for being courageous enough to fight for it.”

And the medical community is taking steps to incorporate Right to Try into its work: In October, Epitopoietic Research Corporation (ERC)—the manufacturer of the Gliovac vaccine to treat the rare brain cancer glioblastoma—announced a program offering Gliovac to patients who meet certain eligibility requirements. This is a first-of-its-kind treatment program under the federal Right to Try law. “Patients are running out of options, and having access to this anti-cancer vaccine provides them new hope,” said Goldwater President & CEO Victor Riches upon the announcement of the treatment program. “That’s exactly why advocates fought so hard to make Right to Try federal law.”

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