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Governor Signs Gabe’s Right To Try Act

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, June 3, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed SB357, Gabe’s Right to Try bill. The bill allows the terminally ill to have access to and use of experimental treatments. 

The bill was named for 10-year-old Gabe Griffin of Shelby County, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

Gov. Bentley said, “Gabe Griffin is a special child who has worked hard to advocate for this legislation. As a physician, I believe it is extremely important to give terminally ill patients the option to consider experimental treatments. Gabe’s story has touched many lives. I appreciate the Alabama Legislature passing this bill and giving Gabe and other children like him hope for the future.”

Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) sponsored SB357.  Sen. Ward said in a statement, “I am so grateful that we in the Legislature were able to pass this important legislation. When you have a child sick with a life-threatening illness, you want that family to have every medical opportunity available for their son or daughter. Now, families and individuals in Alabama will have access to medical drugs that may aid their recovery, even as the drugs are going through the formal approval process.”

Representative April Weaver (R-Brierfield) said, “Gabe is a special young man and an inspiration to so many, and I’m hopeful this law will bring him and his family one step closer to a cure.  The medical research community is on the verge of developing personalized treatments that could help children like Gabe and we must do everything we can to help them win their fight against time.” 

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Gabe’s father, Scott Griffin said, “Senator Ward and Representative Weaver introduced this bill and the Alabama legislature approved it unanimously, recognizing the real barriers that exist between patients like Gabe and modern treatments log jammed in the decades-old federal approval process.  On behalf of all Alabama families living through the nightmare of a terminal illness, Traci and I appreciate Governor Bentley signing this law and giving us another possible path to victory in our race against time.”

DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep the muscles intact. The onset of this fatal disorder occurs during early childhood and causes generalized weakness and muscle wasting that increases over time. While medical advances have led to some very promising clinical trials, to date there is no cure.

To be eligible for the Right to Try Act, an individual has to meet the following criteria: have a terminal illness, attested to by the patient’s treating physician; have considered all other treatment options currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; received a recommendation from his or her physician for an investigational drug, biological product, or device; have given written, informed consent for the use of the investigational drug, biological product, or device; and have documentation from his or her physician that he or she meets the requirements of this subdivision.

Governor Bentley first met Gabe Griffin and the Ride4Gabe group in 2014, as they were bicycling across the country to bring awareness to DMD.

Advocates for the terminally ill want to see a more streamlined, faster process to get new treatments approved.  It is very costly for companies to get new treatments to market and with rare conditions like DMD, where there are only about 15,000 people in the US, sometimes the cost of the required trials is difficult for pharmaceutical companies to recoup.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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