Colorado lawmakers to consider 'Buyers Club' bill

Bill allows terminally ill access to meds

DENVER - Colorado lawmakers are considering a so-called "right to try" bill that would allow terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Long before the critically acclaimed film "Dallas Buyers Club" drew attention to the issue, State Representative Janek Joshi, (R-Colorado Springs) was aware of the issue.

"It used to take 8 to 10 months for the FDA to approve drugs in the '50s and '60s, and now it takes almost 10 years," said Joshi. "Which means the drug may be working, but they want to keep doing the clinical trials."

Joshi is co-spondoring the bi-partisan legislation, which he said would offer terminally ill patients a choice.

In testimony last week, some members of the medical community raised concerns about patient safety.

"The concerns that we have are both ethical and legal ambiguity of the bill," said Dr. Bill Marsh with Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Kaiser Permanente Colorado issued this statement Sunday: "We are opposed to the bill as written, due to a number of issues mentioned in the hearing, including patient safety concerns. However, we are working with the stakeholders and bill sponsors to address these concerns and to potentially amend the bill."

Opponents said that the FDA already has a pathway for people with serious conditions to have expanded access to experimental drugs.

However, many patients say the process is long and complicated.

"We are running out of time, and the FDA has all the power and hasn't done anything," said Jennifer Dunne.

Her son, Ryan, has a form of Muscular Dystrophy that would be treated with an experimental drug, but the FDA has not approved his case.

Joshi said his bill is for people like Ryan, who don't have any other choices, however, he admitted it is largely symbolic since states don't technically have the right to circumvent the FDA on drug issues.

"If enough states do it then the FDA will have to listen," said Joshi. "Look at what happened with marijuana. It’s still illegal, but we passed it., and the federal government has not come back to hit us. So, do you think they will let the stoners go and tell the terminally ill patients no? There would be a revolt!"

House Bill 1281 goes before a house committee for a vote Tuesday.

Several states, including Arizona and Missouri and considering similar legislation.

 

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