Texas lawmakers are closer to putting experimental drugs within the reach of terminally ill patients.
The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday preliminarily passed "Right to Try" legislation that would give patients access to drugs awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Senate has already approved a similar measure.
Patients would be required to give written consent and have a physician's recommendation. The drugs must have also cleared the first phase of clinical trials.
The bill was written in memory of Austin attorney who died of cancer while awaiting a drug's approval. Andrea Sloan's parents watched from the House gallery as lawmakers passed the measure.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would still need to sign off on the bill.
Laying out House Bill 21, state Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, honored state Capitol lobbyist Andrea Sloan, who waged a public battle with ovarian cancer and eventually sought federal permission to try an experimental treatment in 2013, shortly before her death. Sloan had to wait more than three weeks to get approval, a process lawmakers hope to expedite with the right-to-try legislation.
“She was a constituent of mine and a friend of mine, a really strong and sweet person,” Kacal said of Sloan, whose parents were in the Capitol on Tuesday to witness the voice vote for HB 21.
The bill would not require that drug companies provide the treatment or that insurance plans cover the costs. For that reason, some critics have labeled the statehouse proposals “placebo legislation,” noting that changes to the FDA drug approval process would have to be written in Washington. Other critics of the bills — similar versions of which are being considered in statehouses around the country — say they could endanger patients, even if the legislators voting for them do so with good intentions.