Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

State May Let Gravely Ill Try New Medicines

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

State May Let Gravely Ill Try New Medicines

Article excerpt

SCHOOL CHOICE: A bill that would allow parents more freedom to choose their children's schools is approved by a House panel. 1B

TALLAHASSEE

Rep. Ray Pilon says Floridians who are dying from cancer and other fatal illnesses should not have to travel to foreign countries and acquire questionable drugs in a bid to sustain their lives.

Pilon, a Sarasota Republican, wants the Legislature to pass his "Right to Try Act" (HB 269), which would add Florida to a growing list of states that allow seriously ill residents who have exhausted available drugs and treatments to use experimental medications.

Patients would have access to "investigational" drugs under review by the federal Food and Drug Administration -- but not yet approved -- a process that often takes more than a decade.

"This bill is a bill about giving people choices in their lives," Pilon said.

"In this world, rather than having people go to Mexico or go to some dark corner and buy snake oil -- which may work for them, but with no guarantee -- we have an obligation," he said. "We owe it to our citizens to preserve life and it will be their choice if they want to continue that life."

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee on Wednesday unanimously backed Pilon's bill, which would allow Florida to join 10 states that have already approved the use of experimental drugs, with governors in Utah and Indiana approving similar legislation this week.

Florida is one of more than two dozen states with experimental drug legislation pending.

The "Right to Try Act" will set up a procedure where drug manufacturers may bypass the FDA's already existing emergency access program and provide terminally ill patients with experimental drugs that have passed at least the first of three phases of FDA testing for safety and effectiveness.

Under the bill, the patient would have to have a "terminal" condition, which would be certified by a physician and confirmed by a second opinion. The patient will have to have considered all other treatment options already approved by the FDA.

The manufacturer could charge, or not charge, the patient for the experimental drug. …

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