March 25, 2014 Updated: March 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm
DENVER — A proposal to allow terminally ill people access to drugs that are still completing clinical trials cleared its first test in the Colorado Legislature on Tuesday.
The House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee voted 10-1 for the measure after it was amended to make clear that the experimenting patients, not their insurers, are responsible for health costs after taking experimental drugs.
"This is a bill about personal choice," said one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins.
The bill now awaits a vote by the full House.
So-called "Right To Try" proposals are pending in several states. The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based libertarian think tank, has promoted the measure as a way to help terminally ill people who don't have time to wait for years of clinical trials for new medications.
The legislation still requires doctors to sign off on the use of an investigational product.
The only vote against the measure came from Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who worried the insurance exemption could leave terminally ill without coverage even for health problems unrelated to the unapproved drugs.
"I'm concerned about the lack of insurance when someone is dying," Fields said.
Another sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Janak Joshi, of Colorado Springs, insisted there need to be liability protections for hospitals and insurers.
"Patients will have to recognize that they're responsible," Joshi said.
Pharmaceutical companies are neutral on the measure, and experimental drugs used outside clinical trials won't affect the drugs' path to wider use, sponsors said Tuesday.
Similar "Right To Try" proposals are pending in legislatures in Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri.