Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Colorado and Louisiana are among the first states to sign into law the Right to Try Act, which enables terminally ill patients under the care of a physician to receive drugs that, while having passed basic safety tests conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have not yet been approved.
The Right to Try Act was designed by the Goldwater Institute in an effort to allow terminally ill patients access to safe experimental medicines. The Institute is working with legislators in numerous states to introduce and approve the Act this year. "This is about saving lives," stated Goldwater Institute President and CEO Darcy Olsen. "We will work nationwide until all Americans have the right to try to save their lives."
In Colorado, the bill was spearheaded by state representatives Joann Ginal, PhD and Dr Janak Joshi. Unfortunately for Representative Ginal, the passage of the bill came too late for a close family member with a severe blood disease, who was taken off life support on the day of the bill's signing ceremony at a Northern Colorado hospital. "When people are dying every day and it's taking decades to get innovative treatments into their hands, something needs to be done," Representative Ginal stated. "Cancer doesn't kill Republicans or Democrats, it kills our mothers and sons. Right to Try is a no-brainer."
The Goldwater Institute notes that over a decade and a billion dollars are needed for one life-saving drug to gain approval, and that the FDA approval protocol has not been updated in fifty years. Currently less than 3% of terminally ill patients are able to access these medications via clinical trials. While detractors have voiced the concern that the Right to Try Act may offer patients false hope, on the contrary, the Act gives a chance at life to those with no other options.
In Arizona, the bill is scheduled to go before the state's voters on the November ballot following passage in the state senate. "It's about the option," stated Tucson resident Tracy Canter, whose mother lost her life while a treatment for her disease was still in the clinical trial phase of testing. "Why would you oppose somebody wanting to choose something over just laying down and dying?"
The results of a systematic view published on June 12, 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health reaffirm what a number of studies conducted over the past decade have indicated: that having a higher serum level of vitamin D is associated with a lower risk of dying prematurely.
Cedric Garland, DrPH and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego selected 32 studies that provided data on a total of 566,583 men and women for their analysis. They determined that having a vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL is associated with approximately half the risk of dying over an average nine years of follow-up in comparison with lower levels. Dr Garland, who is a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UC San Diego, noted that serum levels of vitamin D lower than 30 ng/mL are estimated to exist in two-thirds of the United States population.
"Three years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that having a too-low blood level of vitamin D was hazardous," he stated. "This study supports that conclusion, but goes one step further. The 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) blood level cutoff assumed from the IOM report was based solely on the association of low vitamin D with risk of bone disease. This new finding is based on the association of low vitamin D with risk of premature death from all causes, not just bone diseases."
"This study should give the medical community and public substantial reassurance that vitamin D is safe when used in appropriate doses up to 4,000 International Units (IU) per day," commented Heather Hofflich, DO, also of UC San Diego. "However, it's always wise to consult your physician when changing your intake of vitamin D and to have your blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D checked annually."
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