Utah’s ‘Right to Try’ Law Could Give Patients Medical Access to Investigational Treatments

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Should Utah citizens with terminal illnesses be legally allowed to try different drugs or medications? At least one representative believes so and has introduced a new bill, the “Right to Try Life-Saving Treatments” act (HB94, sponsored by Representative Gage Froerer). Representative Froerer is the sponsor of last year’s high CBD, low THC bill (HB105, aka Charlee’s law), a law designed to allow access to a “hemp oil extract” via the Stanley Brothers in Colorado.

The bill would allow patients to “obtain an investigational drug (or device) through an agreement with the investigational drug (or device) manufacturer and the eligible patients physician.” Essentially, it would allow terminal patients access to drugs or devices which have completed the most basic of safety testing but are awaiting full approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

Representative Froerer wrote on January 12, 2015 in the Standard Examiner’s Opinion/Editorial section that:

“There are thousands of potentially life saving drugs and treatments bogged down in the red tape of the seemingly never-ending FDA approval process. On average, it takes 10-15 years and hundreds of millions of dollars for drugs to get through the FDA’s multi-phase approval process and finally become available to the public.

While the FDA has an important role in keeping harmful or ineffective drugs off the market, its processes are so slow and cumbersome that it often keeps new drugs from patients that could extend and preserve their lives.

‘Right to Try’ legislation, like that enacted last year in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, and Michigan and now proposed in Utah in House Bill 94, provides terminally ill patients an alternative route to access experimental drugs not yet fully approved by the FDA.

HB 94 gives terminal patients who have exhausted conventional treatment options and consulted with their doctor to access drugs that have successfully completed Phase I of FDA testing. A drug passes Phase I when the FDA has determined it to be reasonably safe for human trials.

In short, HB 94 gives new hope to those previously without hope.

We anticipate two groups of patients likely to seek these currently restricted drugs: those who want to fight to extend or save their own life and those who accept their fate but want to further drug testing for others with the same illness.”

He went on to state:

“We acknowledge that clinical trials provide some terminally ill patients the hope they seek; however, many of the sickest individuals do not qualify to join such a trial. For these patients, their only hope to access these potentially life saving drugs is to request that the FDA grant them expanded access. This is a cumbersome process which takes hundreds of hours of paperwork by the patient’s physician with no guarantee of getting expanded access. HB 94 makes the process much easier.

Medical decisions, especially those of terminally ill patients, should be made by patients and their doctors, not Washington bureaucrats. HB 94 gives terminally ill patients the right to make their own decisions regarding preservation of life.”

Does this type of legislation show true compassion for Utah patients or is it more placating to big pharmaceutical companies? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, groups such as the Utah Cannabis Coalition and Utah CARE (Cannabis Awareness, Reform and Education) will continue to push for safe and legal access to their choice of herbal remedies, including cannabis.

The next few years will be very interesting in Utah politics, to say the least, with Representatives such as Mr. Froerer, who appear to understand and respect the needs for alternatives in treatment, working to re-shape the broken prohibition laws in this state. Perhaps an actual medical marijuana bill will be next on the agenda, as Utah citizens wait,  continuing to suffer.

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