The Indiana Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to give terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs that are not on the market, a change the bill's sponsor says would help restore hope to those who are dying.
The bill would give patients access to treatments years before they receive federal approval, a process that includes three phases and can take about 10 to 15 years to complete.
"We truly have a bill that will affect the lives of Hoosiers and at the very minimum will give hope to the hopeless," said Rep. Ed Charbonneau, a Valparaiso Republican who sponsored the bill.
Although the House unanimously approved a nearly identical proposal last month, members of that chamber must pass it again to send it on to Gov. Mike Pence. That's because a Senate committee adopted an amendment that clarifies nurses would be among the medical professionals who would be protected from liability under the measure.
Indiana is one of about two dozen states considering the legislation, more commonly known as "right-to-try" laws, this session. Eight others have either adopted or approved similar laws including Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri.
If passed, patients would be able to try drugs that have cleared at least Phase 1 of the Food and Drug Administration's approval process, which determines a treatment's safety level. Drugs also must remain in the federal process after completing the first phase to be available.
Supporters say this would shorten time patients have to wait for potentially lifesaving drugs. They must be terminally ill with no other comparable treatment option to be eligible and drugs should be considered a last-ditch effort to improve their condition or disease.
There has been little opposition, but some lawmakers expressed concerns in committee hearings about overstepping the approval process.