Arizona could become the latest state to allow those who are terminally ill to try experimental treatment not yet approved by the FDA.
This “right to try” ballot initiative will be put before voters in November. If passed, Arizona would join Colorado, Louisiana and Missouri in allowing the practice, which has been compared to the film “Dallas Buyers Club” starring Matthew McConaughey, who portrays an AIDs patient smuggling drugs from Mexico the FDA has not yet approved for treatment for himself and others.
There are between there 500,000 to 1 million people with terminal illness in the United States, said Victor Riches, a spokesperson for the Goldwater Institute, which is pushing for the measure in Arizona and working with potential sponsors for bills in other states in 2015. “It impacts most folks at some point or another,” he said.
So far, the bills have been “very, very similar,” he said, requiring any drugs taken to have at least passed a Phase 1 clinical trial and be part of on-going clinical trials. They also protect doctors who recommend experimental treatment with any terminally ill patients.
Colorado Sen. Janak Joshi (R), a co-sponsor of Colorado’s version of the bill, said the legislation faced opposition from insurance companies, and home care and hospice providers, but it passed unanimously in the legislature. “I found a Democratic co-sponsor and that helped too,” he said. “We had a bipartisan bill.” Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed the bill into law in May.
Insurance companies were worried about covering the cost of experimental drugs, Joshi said, but they are not required to. Most of the time, patients would pay for treatments themselves, although there’s no way to track that or how many patients have taken experimental drugs since the bill was passed of patient-doctor confidentiality, he said.