Terminally Ill Oklahomans Now Have Access To Non-FDA Approved Drugs

Monday, November 2nd 2015, 5:01 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

Terminally ill patients in Oklahoma now have access to drugs that are not yet approved by the FDA. The so-called "Right to Try Act" is one of the more than 250 laws that took effect Sunday.

Some have been pushing for this legislation for several year including Jack Bonnie who was hoping it would save his now late wife's life.

Bonnie's wife Janet began showing signs of Alzheimer’s back in 2000 when Jack Bonnie was still a state representative.  During that time, he learned from a local doctor of a promising new drug that could maybe help his wife.

“He was excited about it, I became interested in it for obvious reasons,” Jack Bonnie said.

But since the drug wasn't FDA approved, Janet Bonnie couldn’t even try it.

Jack Bonnie's brother had died of cancer at the age of 34, but back then, his family was able to get him an experimental drug from Mexico. Although, Jack Bonnie said it probably didn’t work.

“At least you felt you felt like you were doing something, I wanted to do that for Janet,” he said.

So, Jack Bonnie and another legislator whose wife was also suffering from Alzheimer's started working on a "Right to Try" bill.

“We talked about it, worked a bill and it just didn’t go anywhere. There wasn’t anyone for it and they said it would just mess up the research if they let anyone have this bill,” recalled Jack Bonnie.

But Jack Bonnie kept working, and even stepped up his efforts once he left the legislature.

Finally in 2015, Rep. Richard Morrissette authored a "Right to Try" bill that passed.

“'Right to Try' represents a medical milestone for Oklahoma victims of terminal illness who otherwise would find themselves out of options. Compassion is what we need for people who receive such a diagnosis,” said Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City.

The new law allows terminally ill patients to try medicines that have passed the first phase of FDA approval. 

Jack Bonnie was there when the governor signed the bill into law but it was too late for Janet Bonnie who passed away the year before. Still, Jack Bonnie is hoping it will prevent others from going through what they did.

11/1/2015 Related Story: New Laws Take Effect In Oklahoma