Republican lawmakers in states across the United States have proposed — and in some cases passed — legislation they say prevents the government from interfering with doctors who want to prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to help prevent and treat Covid-19.
But these treatments have not proven effective in preventing or treating Covid and infectious disease experts see the bills as examples of right-wing lawmakers politicizing medicine – a trend that is intensifying as the pandemic continues in America in its third year amid an increasingly difficult situation. political atmosphere.
And so it is with the latest suspect treatment for Covid-19 which has become more than just a drug, but rather the question of whether to trust established public health organizations or deviating doctors. of their guidelines, and to podcast and cable news hosts.
“We really need to get politicians to step back and let scientists and public health officials make the decisions about what will be beneficial in preventing and treating Covid,” said Sunil Parikh, associate professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.
Kansas is one of at least 11 states, according to Buzzfeed, where Republican lawmakers have proposed, and in some cases passed, legislation to limit the ability of medical licensing boards to take action against providers who prescribe the drug. ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, another drug which has not been shown to be effective against Covid but nevertheless promoted by some right-wing politicians.
“We leave it up to medical professionals as they should, not bureaucrats trying to maintain a single message,” said Kansas State Senator Richard Hilderbrand, chairman of the committee that sponsored the legislation.
The Kansas bill requires a pharmacist to dispense a prescription for hydroxychloroquine sulfate and ivermectin and says it protects pharmacists or prescribers from liability for prescribing the drugs for Covid-19.
Hilderbrand said he introduced the bill in part because the Kansas Board of Healing Arts is suing doctors for prescribing drugs for off-label use.
Fellow Republican Senator Mark Steffen, an anesthetist and pain management specialist, revealed at a recent hearing that the board had been investigating him for more than 18 months over comments he made while he was county commissioner, according to the Washington Post.
Ivermectin is an antiparasitic treatment mainly used for animals but approved in varying doses to treat certain parasitic worms in humans – but not to prevent or treat Covid.
In addition to Republican lawmakers, promotion of ivermectin has come from public figures such as comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan, who said he used the drug to treat himself when he fell ill with Covid, and hosts by Fox News Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
But Parikh said there had been no trials that “in the minds of most scientists show no evidence that ivermectin is beneficial” for the prevention or treatment of Covid.
“The drug doesn’t work against Covid – period,” said Dr. Michael Saag, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “There are countless studies – well-conducted, randomized clinical trials – that show no benefit, so why would you want to use a drug that doesn’t work?”
Regardless of how effective ivermectin is against Covid, Saag said legislation such as the Kansas bill isn’t necessary because doctors can still prescribe it for off-label use, even if it doesn’t work. not.
“Any physician in the United States has the ability to write a prescription for a drug for a purpose that has not been officially approved by the FDA,” Saag explained.
Steven Stites, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, sees the Kansas legislation as problematic not only because it gives doctors the authority they already have, but because it relieves the providers and pharmacists of the responsibility to prescribe or dispense hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
“You took the risk away from the doctor. You have taken the risk away from the pharmacist, which means the two people who are fully trained for this type of question have now had their risk removed, so the patient owns the risk,” Stites said. “The least informed and least trained person in the room now owns all the risk.”
Hilderbrand, the Kansas state senator, said lawmakers plan to remove language from the legislation that protects doctors from liability and part that requires pharmacists to fill prescriptions for drugs.
Asked about the assessment that the drug has not been shown to be effective against Covid and could be dangerous, Hilderbrand said: “Where is their evidence that it doesn’t work?
“If the doctor and the patient think this is the best course of action against a new virus, then they should have that opportunity,” said Hilderbrand, who represents a district in southeastern Kansas.
Studies are underway on the ability of ivermectin to treat Covid at the University of Minnesota and Duke University.
Parikh, said he hopes studies show that ivermectin can be effective with Covid, “but we haven’t seen that”.
He also points out that there are new treatments that have proven effective in treating Covid, such as Paxlovid.
What does he expect to happen if the Minnesota and Duke trials show that ivermectin is not effective against Covid?
“If these studies have been done well,” Parikh said, “and really show in these settings that ivermectin has no impact…I just don’t see any reason to continue this debate.”