Colorado becomes first state to approve bill giving terminally ill access to experimental medication

Colorado became the first state to allow terminally ill patients to have access to experimental medicine not yet approved by the FDA Saturday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the so-called 'right to try' bill into law in Fort Collins. The bill's co-sponsor, Democratic State Rep. Joann Ginall, was absent from the signing ceremony in order to tend to her older brother Tom, who is suffering from a rare blood cancer.

"Thank you to everyone for passing this bill, which may bring hope to people like Tom when all else failed," Ginal said in a statement read by State Rep. Randy Fischer at the ceremony. "The types of treatments envisioned in this bill gave my brother more time and hopefully will do the same for others."

The bill allows patients and doctors to work together to secure experimental treatments with the permission of a pharmaceutical company. Insurance companies are not required to pay for the treatment, and drug manufacturers can choose whether to charge for the medication or to provide it to the patient free of charge.

Lawmakers in Missouri and Louisiana have passed similar bills unanimously in recent days, while voters in Arizona will weigh that state's version of the law at the polling place this November.

Supporters of the bills say that they would help patients who are desperate for treatment avoid the lengthy process of getting the FDA to approve access to experimental drugs. Opponents say that the legislation circumvents federal law and undermines the drug development process.

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