State lawmakers have given unanimous final passage to “Right to Try Individualized Treatments” (House Bill 98). The measure seek to allow patients with terminal or severely debilitating diseases, who have exhausted all other options, to partake in experimental treatments when recommended by a physician. 

The bill language replaced the original HB 98 language, the Medical Freedom Act, which would have barred state and local governments from refusing employment or firing employees for refusing to submit to a COVID-19 vaccine or provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The bill protects the provider of experimental treatment from liability, and protects doctors who recommend experimental individualized treatments to patients who qualify.

Eligible patients must have a life-threatening or severely debilitating illness, attested to by a treating physician; have in consultation with a treating physician, considered all other treatment options currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; have received a recommendation from the treating physician for use of an individualized investigational drug, biological product, or device for treatment of the life-threatening or severely debilitating illness; and given informed consent in writing, or informed consent was given by a guardian.

“What this is is an expansion of current North Carolina law that we passed in 2015 and 2018 to provide certain patients the ability to try certain types of experimental treatments if they qualify as having a serious illness or certain debilitating conditions,” explained Sen. Benton Sawrey, R-Johnston, the bill’s primary sponsor, in a recent committee on the bill language. “What this expansion does is take that current North Carolina common law and applies individualized treatments such as individualized therapies, courses of treatment, biologics, and different types of medications.”

Forty-one states have passed Right To Try legislation including Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“North Carolina obviously has a thriving biotech and biopharmaceutical sector,” said Sawrey. “I think this will be a great catalyst and spur to some of our research we’re doing in North Carolina as well as providing options for patients who otherwise don’t have options and have to go to Europe or other places to seek treatment for certain types of illnesses.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper who has 10 days to sign or veto it. If he does neither, it becomes law automatically.

The Right to Try movement has been active for years, with advocates encouraging state and federal bodies to allow patients to try experimental treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.