A bill which would allow terminally ill Nebraskans to try experimental drugs advances in the Unicameral.
Sen Robert Hilkemann of Omaha sponsors Legislative Bill 117.
“This bill allows patients with terminal illnesses to access potentially life-saving medications that have not yet been fully approved by the FDA,” Hilkemann tells colleagues as he opens debate on the measure.
The medication would have to have passed the first phase of the Federal Drug Administration’s drug trials. It would have to have been recommended by a physician, and the patient would have had to exhaust all other conventional treatments.
Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell claims the bill raises serious ethical concerns for the medical community. Kuehn also points to language in the bill which holds pharmaceutical companies as well as insurance companies harmless should the experiment backfire.
“You try a ‘right to try’ drug and you have a horrible reaction and you go into the hospital your insurance carrier is off the hook. It’s private pay. It’s all you,” Kuehn tells colleagues, noting the insurance company would not be required to cover the costs.
Both Kuehn and Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln raise questions about the constitutionality of the bill, pointing the measure would violate federal law.
During a discussion with Hilgers, Hilkemann points out the neighboring states of Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, and Wyoming all have passed similar legislation.
“So, you say they refused it on marijuana, but on ‘right to try’ which 38 other states already have, they’ll challenge that. Are you saying that, senator?” Hilkemann asks Hilgers.
“I’m saying, regardless of who will challenge it, it’s unconstitutional in my view,” Hilgers responds. “We ought not to pass it. We live in a rule of law society, Sen. Hilkemann. We should not be passing laws based on the hope that even though they’re unconstitutional someone won’t call us on it.”
The measure moves to the second round of debate on a 33-to-12 vote.