Republicans in a number of states have recently pushed legislation to promote ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine—two ineffective and potentially dangerous treatments for Covid-19—and protect doctors who prescribe the drugs to coronavirus patients.
New Hampshire: The state Senate’s health and human services committee on April 28 approved HB 1466, which would allow physicians greater freedom to prescribe drugs for uses not approved by the FDA, boosting the availability of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment.
Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee (R) on April 22 signed into law a similar bill allowing pharmacists in the state to provide ivermectin with immunity from administrative discipline or civil liability if the pharmacist does not also engage in negligence or misconduct.
Ohio: HB 631, which was introduced April 21 by state Rep. Kris Jordan (R), would prevent health departments, healthcare facilities and pharmacies in the state from refusing to promote or expand access to the antiparasitic drugs ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatments.
Kansas: The Republican-controlled Kansas Senate passed a bill on March 24 that would permit the prescription of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatments without liability for damages if the prescriber does not engage in negligence or misconduct, but the bill appears stalled in the House.
The New Hampshire Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee is also considering a bill passed by the House that would let pharmacists provide ivermectin without a prescription.
In January, Virginia’s Democratic-controlled state Senate’s committee on education and health indefinitely paused consideration of a Republican-backed bill that would allow healthcare providers to prescribe and dispense ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to Covid-19 patients, most likely killing the bill.
Hydroxychloroquine, which is normally used to treat malaria and arthritis, experienced a brief surge of popularity as a Covid-19 treatment in 2020, after it was promoted by then-President Donald Trump. In 2020, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, but quickly revoked that ruling after the agency found the drug was not effective against Covid-19 and had a potential for serious side effects. However, popular interest in ivermectin, an inexpensive drug often used to treat parasitic infections like intestinal worms and head lice, has proven far more durable. Though studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, JAMA Internal Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine independently determined that ivermectin did not help Covid-19 patients, some Republican lawmakers have attempted to pass bills shielding healthcare professionals from liability for prescribing or distributing the drug. Podcast giant Joe Rogan has championed the unsanctioned treatment. Both the FDA and the World Health Organization have warned the public against using ivermectin to treat Covid-19. Human use of ivermectin formulated for animals, which can include much larger doses, is especially dangerous, the FDA said.
“We have a tried and true process to look at the drugs people want to use because they believe they work,” said Sen. Tom Sherman (D-N.H.), who is a physician. “We are discarding all of that. From a medical background, I can’t think of a word that would capture how irresponsible this step would be.”
30. That’s the number of states whose legislatures have proposed bills either limiting health board authority to penalize the promotion of FDA-unapproved Covid-19 treatments or explicitly allowing the promotion of those treatments, according to legislative data service GovHawk.
What To Watch For
If approved by the New Hampshire Senate, HB 1466 will go to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu (R), whose office said he would “carefully consider” the bill’s language but did not indicate whether he would be inclined to sign it. No action has been taken on Ohio HB 631 since it was introduced in April, though the bill will be eligible for discussion when the Ohio House next reconvenes May 17.
“Ivermectin Doesn’t Help Covid Patients, Study Finds” (Forbes)
“New Study Shows Hydroxychloroquine Doesn’t Prevent Covid-19 Coronavirus Infection” (Forbes)