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The Strange Allure of State “Right-to-Try” Laws

Patricia J. Zettler, JD1; Henry T. Greely, JD1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(12):1885-1886. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5767.
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State “right-to-try” laws that purport to allow patients to be treated with unapproved drugs or devices seem likely to be futile.

In May 2014, the governor of Colorado signed into law a so-called right-to-try bill; the intent of the law is to allow terminally ill patients to receive treatment outside of clinical trials with drugs and medical devices that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved for marketing.1 Following in Colorado’s footsteps, Missouri and Louisiana subsequently enacted similar laws2,3; at least 3 more states—Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada—are considering them. The laws are sometimes referred to as “Dallas Buyers’ Club” laws, a reference to the 2013 film about a real-life patient with AIDS who smuggled unapproved human immunodeficiency virus drugs into Texas in the 1980s.

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