California Governor Vetoes Right-to-Try Bill

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By Laura Mahoney

Oct. 13 — Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a bill Oct. 11 that would have allowed patients in California with life-threatening illnesses to obtain investigational treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, saying he wants to give a federal program a chance to work.

A.B. 159 by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D), the Right To Try Act, would have made California the 25th state to give patients access to investigational drugs and medical devices. Brown pointed to the FDA's recently updated compassionate use program for drugs as the reason for his veto. He is the first U.S. governor to veto right-to-try legislation.

“The proposed changes to this program will streamline access to these drugs,” Brown said in his veto message. “Before authorizing an alternative state pathway, we should give this federal expedited process a chance to work.”

Calderon faulted Brown for giving the FDA more time.

“Time is the one thing our terminally ill don't have,” Calderon said in an Oct. 12 news release. “I wish he would have given terminally ill Californians the hope of having more time to spend with their families by allowing them expedited access to potentially life-saving drugs.”

Veto Override Possible

A.B. 159 passed both houses of the Legislature with nearly unanimous support.

Kurt Altman, director of national affairs and special counsel for the Goldwater Institute, called on lawmakers to override the veto. The Arizona-based institute designed the law.

“Governor Brown has deprived Californians of the right to try to save their lives when their mortality hangs in the balance,” Altman said.

The bill would have limited access to the treatments to those who likely only have a few months to live, have considered all other FDA-approved options, and haven't been accepted into a clinical trial. It included rules for physician recommendations, informed consent, Institutional Review Board approval and review, and limitations on insurance coverage.

The measure also limited the ability of patients or their families to file civil litigation stemming from use of the investigational drugs and treatments.

The Legislature adjourned for the year Sept. 11, and reconvenes in January for the second year of its two-year session.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif., at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at

More information about A.B. 159 is available at