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Senate committee advances ‘right-to-try’ trial drugs bill

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – A proposal to give terminally ill patients easier access to experimental drugs that have not received full federal approval won unanimous approval Wednesday from an Indiana Senate committee.

The measure has captured the attention of lawmakers this session because of 5-year-old Jordan McLinn, an Indianapolis boy who has a severe form of muscular dystrophy called Duschenne and is not expected to live past age 20. A clinical trial drug has the potential to give him decades more to live, but it hasn’t received federal approval and is therefore off limits.

Senate health committee members voted 10-0 Wednesday to advance the measure that would give terminally ill patients the chance to try medicines that have passed at least the first phase of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process, so long as the patient’s doctor and the drug manufacturer approve. The first phase determines a treatment’s safety level, and drugs must remain in the federal process to be available.

The bill, which passed through the state House last month, now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Similar legislation, more commonly known as “right-to-try” laws, have already been adopted in Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri, and Arizona put a proposal in place through a voter referendum. Indiana is one of nearly two dozen states considering the legislation.

Supporters say the bill would shorten the time patients wait for potentially life-saving drugs. There has been little opposition, but committee members expressed concerns last week about overstepping the federal process and tracking and monitoring drug usage.

“I do have some concerns about what we are doing to undermine the efficacy of the whole process and determining whether drugs are ready to go to market,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis. “But because of the very cute little Jordan and the issue that he has, I will support this bill.”

Lawmakers also adopted an amendment Wednesday that would protect all medical professionals who treat these patients from liability, since the previous language was unclear.