HB94: Bill to allow terminally ill access to experimental drugs passes House

By Michael A. Kruse

Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY- A Huntsville Republican’s plan to allow dying patients to use experimental drugs passed the Utah House late last week.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, would allow terminally ill patients to use drugs that have gone through stage one of Federal Drug Administration testing but remain in trial. The FDA puts drugs through 3 stages of testing before they submit for final approval.

Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville

Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville

Froerer said the bill is intended to provide a sliver of a hope to terminally ill patients.

Rep. Eric Hutchings, R- Kearns, spoke in support of the bill. He told of his experience watching his mother die from bone marrow cancer. It was difficult watching his mother after the doctors told her there was nothing more they could do, he said, adding that his mother lost all hope of something to live for.

Hutchings said he didn’t know if the drugs would have had any medical benefit for his mother, but she was broken hearted that she had nothing more to give. In addition to giving his her hope, his mother would have found purpose in her final days by helping test a drug that might someone else’s life, he said.

“I think she would have reveled in the idea of being able to potentially help someone else,” said Hutchings, who said that was the most important part of the bill.

Froerer also shared anecdotes about people who had taken their own lives because they were unable to get potentially life-saving medicines. While they can sign up for clinical trials, it’s too difficult to get in, said Froerer. The bill will add hope, quality, and a measure of dignity, and even though the bill has been referred to as the ‘right to try bill’, he prefers to call it a ‘right to life’ bill, Froerer said.

Under the bill, a patient must be defined as terminally ill, the drug or device must have successfully completed the FDA phase one of testing, and a doctor must approve the drug for the patient.

The bill passed the house with a 72-1 vote. Orem Republican Val Peterson was the lone representative to vote against passage. It is not the legislature’s job to be determining who can get drugs, and patients should use the process already in place, he said.

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