Voters Approve Experimental-Drug Measure

Published: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 9:07pm
Updated: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 2:17am
Jude Joffe-Block / KJZZ
Diego Morris, right, got experimental cancer treatment in London because it wasn't allowed here. He wanted Prop 303 to pass.

Voters said no to a proposition that would raise pay for Arizona lawmakers while overwhelming approving a measure that allows terminally ill patients to try unapproved, experimental drugs.

The "Right to Try Act" is a measure that has gained popularity in other states, driven by the conservative Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute. It has drawn comparisons to the movie "Dallas Buyers Club" about an AIDS patient who smuggled treatments from Mexico because they weren't cleared for use in the U.S.

Diego Morris, a 13-year-old in the eighth grade, celebrated Proposition 303’s victory on Tuesday night.

“Two years ago, I had cancer, and my family and I had to go to another country to get an experimental drug that could have possibly saved my life. And luckily I’m here today,” he said.

Morris’ cancer is now in remission. He actively advocated for the measure.

“It will give people the opportunity to not have to go through what we had to go through,” he said.

Critics called Proposition 303 a feel-good campaign that could actually hurt more patients than it helps.

The initiative will allow qualifying patients to access drugs and devices that have passed Phase 1 of clinical trials but are not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some opponents, however, say that most drugs at that phase turn out to be less effective than current therapies.

Meanwhile, voters rejected Proposition 304, which would have increased legislators' annual salaries from $24,000 to $35,000. They have not received a pay raise since 1998.

The Arizona Legislature has been a polarizing body in recent years, taking up controversial measures on immigration, gay rights and guns. The Arizona Legislature is a part-time position.

The Associated Press and Jude Joffe-Block contributed to this report.

Updated 11/5/14 at 2:16 a.m.

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