Terminally ill patients could get access to drugs that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the terms of a measure given preliminary Senate approval Tuesday.

HCR 2005 permits but does not require manufacturers, health care institutions and doctors to make certain investigational drugs and devices available. Eligibility would be limited to those with a disease that, without life-sustaining procedures, will result in death in the near future “or a state of permanent unconsciousness from which recovery is unlikely.”

Only those drugs that have been through at least the first phase of FDA testing – meaning they have been screened for harm – would be available. Federal procedures usually require four stages of investigation.

A final Senate vote puts the measure on the November ballot where voters get the last word.

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