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'Right to Try' Bill Would Bypass FDA Approval

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The  Florida Senate Health Policy Committee passed a bill Tuesday that will establish the "Florida Right to Try Act."

SB 1052 will allow patients diagnosed with a terminal illness to explore products and treatments that are currently under clinical trial, but not yet FDA approved. It also would protect a physician recommending certain treatment options.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who sponsored this bill, said he has friends who have been diagnosed with cancer and sought treatment outside of the country after exhausting all their treatment options.

"I think that's the last thing we'd want for somebody," Brandes said. "That's definitely the last thing I'd want for my friends so to me it's really important for them to be able to try those options here under the care and watchful eye of their physician and with the support of their family."

Similar bills have been passed in Colorado, the first state to enact such legislation, as well as Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri and Louisiana. Laws are being considered in more than 20 other states. 

The second part of the bill would make documents detailing patients' treatment end-of-life wishes available to medical facilities throughout the state and country.

Right now, there is no centralized registry that medical facilities can use to access POLST forms, which identify and communicate patients' wishes for their medical treatment. Brandes said patients now must carry the forms with them to ensure their wishes are respected.

SB 1052 nest heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. A House companion bill filed by Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, is now being reviewed by the House Insurance and Banking Committee.

Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.