HB94: ‘Right to Try’ bill passes senate, Speaker Lockhart remembered

John Weylin Gibbons
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah’s “Right to Try” bill, which would allow terminally ill patients to participate in experimental treatments prior to final FDA approval, is in its final stages before becoming law after passing the Senate 26-0, with three members absent.

According to Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, the sponsor for the “Right to Try” bill, HB94 gives patients decision-making power over their own treatments. The bill also allows a patient’s doctor and pharmaceutical company to make a decision that otherwise would have been impossible. IMG_2412

In last week’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Jonathan Johnson, chairman of the Promote Liberty political action committee, testified in support of the bill’s passage. “Last year I heard about when this law passed in Colorado. I thought about my father who was diagnosed with leukemia. Father was willing to try an experimental drug to help further society. ‘It’s too much work,’ is what the doctor said. It was too much work for the doctor, not for my father.”

Currently, it is illegal to receive drugs that have not passed FDA testing, but this law would allow that option but also give companies the option to refuse. Froerer said this law has three stop-gap measures: The patient decides whether to accept the treatment, the doctor is in charge of prescribing, and the manufacturer has the option to give or withhold consent.

Sen. Evan J. Vickers, R-Cedar City, is the floor sponsor for the bill in the Senate. “This bill has been on a journey, anytime you get on a 5th substitute you know that you’ve dealt with a lot of concerns, and that’s the path that we’ve taken on this bill, to try to address all of those concerns,” he said. Given the changes and compromises, Vickers is confident that the legislature has created a sound bill.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, decided to discuss the bill in a context a little closer to home for most legislators. Shortly before the 2015 session began, former Speaker of the House, Becky Lockhart, was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s disease. She died ten days after her diagnosis.

“Imagine that you have been told that there is no cure, it is untreatable and that it’s always fatal,” said Bramble, speaking of Lockhart. “If there was any hope that there was an experimental cure, her husband, her family, we would have jumped on that in a heartbeat because the alternative was a certainty.”

HB94 has been placed on the legislative concurrence calendar and is awaiting final approval before being submitted to the governor.

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