Capitol Alert

Bill expanding access to experimental drugs sent to Gov. Jerry Brown

Legislation seeking to give dying Californians better access to experimental drugs cleared the Assembly and headed to Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.

Paralleling a nationwide campaign to pass similar “right to try” laws, Assembly Bill 159, by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, would permit pharmaceutical companies to make not-yet-fully-approved treatments available to terminally ill patients without going through existing federal channels. It shields doctors or insurance companies from liability for negative consequences.

While the federal Food and Drug Administration permits access to drugs still in development via clinical trials or a special “expanded access” process, advocates of AB 159 argue those avenues aren’t efficient or sufficiently available for people with little time left.

Despite the opposition of the Association of Northern California Oncologists and the California Nurses Association, who had expressed concerns about harming patients or instilling false hope, Assembly members approved the bill on a 63-2 vote.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert