Utah lawmaker proposes bill that would give terminally ill patients access to trial drugs

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SALT LAKE CITY - Utahns who have a terminal illness could soon have more options to try to extend or even save their lives.

HB94, dubbed the "Right to Try" bill, would allow terminally ill patients who have exhausted conventional treatment to have easier access to experimental drugs that have passed the first phase of the FDA's three trials.

"What HB94 attempts to do is cut the red tape," said Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville. "Cut the bureaucratic red tape that would allow these people who would need -- sorely need -- these experimental drugs."

The bill is being backed by the Goldwater Institute and the Promote Liberty Political Action Committee. Five states have passed similar bills with more being brought to legislatures across the country.

The bill has the backing of Jonathan Johnson III, the chairman of Overstock.com and a member of the Promote Liberty PAC. His father died of leukemia.

"He talked to his doctor, he said, 'What can I do to try experimental drugs?' and the doctor said the process is long and arduous and together, they decided it wasn't worth the time," said Johnson.

The catch of the bill is that pharmaceutical companies have to be willing to provide the drugs and insurance companies may not cover it. Critics of "Right to Try" legislation have said it has the potential to undermine the FDA's approval process.