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Colorado bill mirrors storyline in 'Dallas Buyers Club'

By Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
Published On: Mar 23 2014 11:56:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 24 2014 11:56:27 AM CDT

The Colorado Legislature will hear a bill that mirrors the story line in The Dallas Buyers Club.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

The Colorado Legislature will hear a bill that mirrors the story line in "Dallas Buyers Club."

The Terminal Patients' Comfort Care Act would allow terminally ill people access to drugs that are still completing clinical trials and haven't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Dallas Buyers Club" has already snagged a few Academy Awards and the bill up for a vote in Colorado is following on the heels of its popularity.

In the Hollywood blockbuster, it's a battle between life and the FDA.  Matthew McConaughey's character is diagnosed with HIV which progresses into AIDS. He is given a diagnosis, but limited options for treatment. He resorts to smuggling in alternative medicines from Mexico. He is determined the medicine keeps him and other terminally ill patients alive. However, the FDA tries repeatedly to shut him down.

"For us it may not be a big deal, but for these patients who only have very few months to live, some of these things really matter," said Rep. Janak Joshi, (R) Colorado Springs.

Joshi has been a lawmaker for four years and a physician for 30 years. His practice focused on internal medicine and Nephrology. He is co-sponsoring the bill along with Joann Ginal, (D) Fort Collins.

"We are hoping to pass it and send the message, 'hey, do something about this' because it is a major issue for a lot of patients," said Joshi.

Joshi said in the 1950s and 1960s, it took 10 months for the FDA to approve a drug. Now it can take up to 10 years.

"Change your system because what you got is very old, very bureaucratic, and it's not working," said Joshi.

If the bill passes, doctors and patients will have discussions about alternative options. It will ultimately be the patient's choice and the doctor's discretion to use the medicine. Joshi said the bill is not intended to push drugs through the approval process that aren't fully vetted.

"We are not asking to expedite the approval process," said Joshi.  "What we are saying is, by the time it's in phase two trial -- which means it has already been tested on the animals, already been tested on the normal, healthy, volunteers, and it has also already been tested on several patients, and it's working -- now we're going to send the drug to phase three trials and right around that time we want that drug to be available."

For a Denver family, this bill hits close to home. Ryan Dunne is battling Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  A break-through drug may be the answer, but the FDA has yet to approve it.

KRDO NewsChannel 13's sister station, KMGH in Denver, reports the FDA is allowed to grant accelerated use for drugs that treat serious conditions but it hasn't moved on Dunne's case.

Jennifer Dunne said her son is losing strength every day.

"The FDA has all the power in the world to grant accelerated approval and we don't have any more time for them to wait to figure this out," said Jennifer Dunne.

The family hopes to get 100,000 signatures by March 29 on a petition that would advance the petition to White House staff. Avalanche player Matt Duchene has joined the fight by dedicating his Twitter page to raise awareness.

Joshi wants the bill passed this legislative session because he said patients don't have time to wait.

Sen. George Rivera, (R) Pueblo, is co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

A house committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday.

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