The Alaska House of Representatives unanimously passed a measure known as the “Right to Try” bill on Monday.
According to its sponsor, Anchorage Rep. Jason Grenn, House Bill 43 would allow terminally ill patients who have exhausted other treatments and do not qualify for clinical trials to try experimental drugs “in an effort to save their own lives,” even if they have not received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“By providing certain immunities to prescribing physicians, manufacturers and distributors acting in good faith, this bill would allow terminal patients, in consultation with their doctor, the freedom to try new treatments as they fight to survive, without the burden of waiting for federal approval,” Grenn said in his sponsor statement for the bill.
Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, the chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, supported the measure, saying that “no one should face a death sentence due to a bureaucratic process.”
“The FDA’s process for approving medications in the United States most certainly serves a purpose, but there are times when government red tape goes too far,” Spohnholz said in a statement.
Less than 3 percent of patients are approved for clinical trials, according to Grenn, leaving thousands without access to treatments that could save their lives. Under Grenn’s bill, Alaskans would be allowed to work with their doctors to try treatments that have successfully completed phase 1 basic safety testing but are still going through the FDA approval process.
Similar legislation has been signed into law in 33 states since 2014, often with bipartisan support, according to Grenn.
“This is an issue that goes beyond state and party lines,” Grenn said. “I believe the right to attempt to save one’s own life is fundamental, and terminally ill Alaskans should have the same access to treatments as those living other parts of the country.”