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Terminal Patients Got Drugs Without FDA Approval. It Added Years to Their Lives.

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The “Right to Try” movement, which recently became federal law, allows doctors to prescribe experimental treatments that haven’t been approved for sale by regulators.
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When Marc Hayutin was 69, he was diagnosed with squamous cell thymic carcinoma, a deadly cancer that affects the lymphatic and endocrine systems. His doctor told him he likely had months to live.

That was six years ago.

He survived thanks to an experimental drug that rapidly shrank his tumors and eased his pain. What’s particularly noteworthy about Hayutin’s recovery was that the drug that saved his life hadn’t been approved for commercial use by the FDA. That would come six years later, at which point Hayutin probably would have been long dead.

He was able to take the medicine anyway thanks to Right to Try—a legal movement that has led to the passage of laws in 41 states allowing doctors to prescribe experimental drugs (ones that haven’t been approved by regulators yet) to patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Right to Try was engineered by the Goldwater Institute, a free-market research and litigation organization in Arizona.

In May of 2019, President Trump signed a Right to Try bill into federal law. It was championed by Vice President Mike Pence, who had signed a version of the legislation as governor of Indiana in 2015.

Right to Try is a shot across the bow at the FDA’s core mission. But what does it mean for the future of medicine?

Produced and shot by Zach Weissmueller. Additional interview by Alex Manning. Additional camera by Meredith Bragg, Jim Epstein, Lexy Garcia, Alex Manning, and Mark McDaniel.

“Smoldering,” by Kai Engel, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NC 3.0 license. Engel’s music is available for purchase and download at his Bandcamp page.

“November,” by Kai Engel, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NC 3.0 license. Engel’s music is available for purchase and download at his Bandcamp page.

“Cobweb Morning,” by Kai Engel, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NC 3.0 license. Engel’s music is available for purchase and download at his Bandcamp page.

“After Midnight,” by Kai Engel, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NC 3.0 license. Engel’s music is available for purchase and download at his Bandcamp page.

“November,” by Kai Engel, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NC 3.0 license. Engel’s music is available for purchase and download at his Bandcamp page.

“Drop D for Sirish,” was produced and recorded by Case Newsom.

“Bosphorous,” by Aris Spyropoulos, was licensed under a standard license through Artisound.io.

“Hang Drum Campfire,” by Aris Spyropoulos, was licensed under a standard license through Artisound.io.

Photo credits: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom

Additional stock footage provided by Pond5.

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