Capitol Connection: Why We Deserve a “Right to Try”

March 6, 2015

When facing a life threatening disease, I don’t believe anyone or anything should stand in the way of treatment, even if that treatment is not the most obvious, popular or relied upon solution.

That’s why I’m cosponsoring a bill that would give people the “right to try” experimental drugs in the state of Connecticut.

Five states have “right to try” laws (Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri), and 24 states are debating similar legislation, including CT.

The proposed bill before the state legislature, H.B. No. 6709 An Act Concerning the Right to Try Experimental Drugs, would allow patients to receive treatment with an investigational drug, biological product or device once specific conditions are met. Investigational drugs and products are treatments that have completed phase 1 of a clinical trial, but have not yet completed the FDA approval.

A patient who is terminally ill would become eligible for such treatment if they have considered all other FDA approved treatment options, if they’ve been unable to participate in a clinical trial within 100 miles of their home, and if they receive approval from their physician.

Prior to treatment, a doctor must also certify that these conditions are met and the patient must give informed consent. Their consent must indicate that they understand the following:

  • The risks, including best and worst case scenarios.
  • The patient’s health insurer and provider are not responsible to pay for any care or treatments caused by problems that could stem from the investigational drug.
  • The patient is liable for all costs associated with treatment, unless a contract between the patient and the drug manufacturer says otherwise.

A major concern some manufacturers and doctors have expressed is that they could be held liable if something goes wrong with an experimental treatment. Therefore, the proposed legislation in CT also provides some protection for both drug manufacturers and doctors – so long as they act in good faith and their advice is consistent with medical standards, respectively.

With any experimental drug or procedure the risks are high. But sometimes these risks are outweighed by the impending threat of a deadly disease.

The “right to try” is about hope. It’s about treatment and empowerment. It’s about helping people fight for their lives when they have nowhere else to turn.

To follow this bill through the legislative process, visit the state General Assembly website at and search for House Bill No. 6709 (or click here: H.B. No. 6709 An Act Concerning the Right to Try Experimental Drugs).