Allow the Terminally Ill Access to Potentially Lifesaving Drugs


Target: Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

Goal: Allow the terminally ill access to potentially lifesaving FDA-unapproved drugs

People suffering from terminal illnesses deserve a chance to try every available remedy that might save them, even if it isn’t guaranteed to work. ‘Right to Try’ legislation allows patients to try potentially life-saving drugs that are sill in the approval stage, giving them access to medicines that they might not otherwise live long enough to try.

In order to be federally approved, experimental drugs must pass through a three stage clinical trial. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these clinical trials can take over seven years to complete, and less than 10% of the admitted drugs make it to completion. ‘Right to Try’ legislation circumvents this lengthy process, and was first approved in Colorado after many families with terminally ill loved ones pushed to have access to experimental drugs.

The FDA has also had a similar program to ‘Right to Try,’ in use since 2009, called “compassionate use,” but less than 1,500 patients are accepted annually. State ‘Right to Try’ acts allow any terminally ill patient access to potentially lifesaving drugs with only the approval of a doctor and the drug manufacturer.

Critics warn that the ‘Right to Try’ act is just a “feel good campaign” and has the potential of causing more hurt than help, as the drugs that would be available are not guaranteed to work. However, many families who back Right to Try argue they would do everything in their power to help their loved ones. As one supporter put it, “…there was a chance [he] would not have been in the 52 percent of people who are responding to the drug; however, a 52 percent chance at life is better than a zero percent at life.” ‘Right to Try’ is about allowing patients to continue to fight for their lives.

By signing the petition below, you will help urge Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and other state leaders to continue to build on patient rights and draft a ‘Right to Try’ bill that allows the terminally ill access to unapproved drugs that have lifesaving potential.


Dear Governor Kitzhaber,

The ‘Right to Try’ act, just passed into law by Colorado legislators, would allow terminally ill patients access to federally unapproved experimental drugs with the consent of a doctor and the drug manufacturer.

Currently, experimental drugs must pass through three stages of an FDA clinical trial before they are available for use. The first stage tests toxicity and appropriate dosage, and the second and third stages test the effectiveness of the drug. These trials can take years, and only a fraction of the drugs admitted into trials make it through all three stages.

The ‘Right to Try’ act gives dying patients access to experimental drugs after toxicity and dosage are determined. This act would allow patients to continue to fight for their lives after all other options have been exhausted. This is a basic human right that even the dying should be entitled to.

Oregon has always been a front runner in patient care, especially after passing the physician assisted suicide bill in 2008.  This letter is to urge you to consider drafting a ‘Right to Try’ bill, so the terminally ill can have access to potentially lifesaving experimental drugs and Oregon can continue to be a pioneer in patient rights.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: commons via Wikimedia

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