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Commentary

Right-to-Try Is Just What the Doctor Ordered



In 2017, Shaun Downs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer and was given a year to live. With no known cure, Shaun quickly exhausted all available treatment options. His situation is bleak.

Stories like Shaun’s are tragically common. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2006, nearly 42% of Americans have a friend or relative with a terminal illness or who is in a coma. Among the most common terminal illnesses is cancer, which accounted for over 600,000 deaths in 2017.

Fortunately for Shaun and others in similar situations, new legislation offers hope.

President Trump recently signed legislation into law which would grant terminally ill patients like Shaun access to experimental drugs before they are approved by the FDA. This law, frequently called “right-to-try,” significantly curtails the FDA’s authority by placing decision making power in the hands of drug providers, physicians, and terminally ill patients.

This unprecedented regulatory shift is facing considerable criticism. Since the bill was passed, it has been referred to as a “cruel joke,” a “sham,” and “false hope.” Others have asserted it is “tailored to undermine public health” and that it “wasn’t worth passing.”

Those who defame right-to-try are quick to defend the FDA, insisting its current role protects consumers. Even in life-and-death situations, its opponents maintain should be made.

But how helpful has the FDA been in assisting the terminally ill?

In her book, “The Right to Try,” Darcy Olsen finds over 25,000 patients with terminal cancer die annually while waiting for the FDA to approve potentially lifesaving drugs. It seems the FDA provides its share of “false hope!”



Raymond J. March is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Assistant Professor of Economics at North Dakota State University.






  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org