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Senate Unanimously Backs "Right to Try" Legislation

The Senate gave a unanimous vote of support on Friday to a measure that would allow terminally ill patients to try experimental drugs that have received preliminary approval by the FDA.

Capitol lobbyist Andrea Sloan waged a public battle with ovarian cancer, seeking federal permission to try an experimental treatment in 2013. She died Jan. 1, 2014.

*Correction appended

Terminally ill patients would get access to experimental drugs that have preliminary FDA approval under legislation that received unanimous support Friday from the Texas Senate.

Known as the "right to try" bill, House Bill 21 by state Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, would let the patients access drugs that have passed at least the first of three FDA trial phases, once the patient has exhausted other treatment options. The proposal approved by the Senate amended the House plan. Before the measure can go to the governor's desk, the House must concur with the amended plan. 

The measure was written in honor of state Capitol lobbyist Andrea Sloan, who waged a public battle with ovarian cancer and sought federal permission to try an experimental treatment shortly before her death in 2014. Sloan had to wait more than three weeks to get approval, a process lawmakers hope to expedite with right-to-try legislation.

Twenty-four of Texas' 31 state senators put their names on the companion proposal, Senate Bill 694, in a broad gesture of support for the legislation.

"I am honored to have the support of every Texas senator to let patients and doctors fight terminally ill diagnoses," the bill’s Senate sponsor, Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said in a statement. "In these fairly uncommon situations, time is the great predator."

Currently, 20 states have passed right to try bills. If HB 21 is signed into law, Texas will become the 21st state. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the House Bill 21 was headed to the governor's desk. The House must concur with the Senate's amended plan before the legislation goes to the governor's office.

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