A proposed law that would give terminally-ill patients in South Carolina the right to try experimental forms of treatment not yet approved by the FDA has reached the state Senate floor.
The Senate Medical Affairs Committee unanimously approved the so-called “Right-to-Try” bill unanimously on Thursday, sending it to the Senate floor. The bill cleared the House back in March and is only slightly different than separate legislation the Senate approved earlier this year.
“We hold all life precious,” lead sponsor State Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Kingstree, said. “And we want the ability to hold on to it as long as we can, and fight for it as long as we can keep it.”
No opposition has emerged against the bill over the past six months. In perhaps the most telling sign of bipartisan support, the conservative thinktank Goldwater Institute is partnering with a Democratic lawmaker in McKnight to help push it through. State Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, is also working to negotiate the bill through the Senate.
If approved, the bill would allow terminally-ill patients to seek treatment for drugs or other treatment that is still seeking Food and Drug Administration approval. The drug must have gotten past “Phase 1” studies, which means testing on volunteers has found the treatment does not have “unacceptable toxicity,” but its effectiveness has not been confirmed. The patient also must acknowledge being informed of the consequences for not pursuing existing drugs or procedures.
There would still be hurdles for those patients seeking the experimental drugs. Their doctor and the FDA must approve the treatment. Pharmaceutical companies would not be obligated to provide the drug and insurance providers would not be required to pay for coverage. Language in the bill protects providers and manufacturers from liability if their patients suffer side effects from the treatment.
Roughly two-dozen other states have similar laws.