Lawmakers to discuss bill allowing off-label use of drugs to treat COVID

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — State lawmakers will meet Monday to discuss a bill that would allow doctors and patients to treat COVID with medications approved by the FDA, but used off-label.

Those include Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin, which infectious disease doctors say aren’t effective against COVID.

Darla Smith of York County tested positive for COVID about a month ago, as did her husband Keith.

“We both did teleconsults with America’s Frontline Doctors and we both got Ivermectin scripts approved but it never came in the mail,” Smith said.

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Ivermectin is a drug many infectious disease doctors say isn’t effective against COVID.

“What we often find are people who do ivermectin in lieu of these proven treatments, and that’s dangerous because we know that vaccines save lives. We know monoclonal antibodies save lives. Ivermectin doesn’t have any of those benefits,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease doctor.

Keith ended up at UPMC Memorial where doctors wouldn’t give him Ivermectin. After going to court, a judge ordered the hospital to give the drug, after he was on a ventilator for two weeks already.

“If you had no liability whatsoever and they do not, why would you block it?” Smith said. “It’s not going to hurt him. This is one of the safest drugs in the world. Why not? It’s a Hail Mary.”

It’s one of the reasons state Rep. Dawn Keefer introduced a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe and require pharmacists to dispense drugs including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine with a patient’s consent for use in the early stage of covid treatment.

“Yeah. I’m 100% in support of that, yeah. It would have saved my husband’s life if we had had that earlier, it would have, he’s still alive now but prognosis is not good,” Smith said.

Adalja says the studies for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine don’t show a benefit.

“There is no good evidence that ivermectin is a treatment for COVID-19. Multiple studies have been done. “The ones that seem to show a benefit had been flawed or not really extrapolated to the general population,” Adalja said.

That’s why he’ll be testifying against the bill.

“I think it’s tantamount to malpractice when you steer a patient away from something that’s proven towards something that is not going to help them. And I think that’s what we have to draw this distinction,” Adalja said. “There are doctors out there that are doing things that don’t make sense from a medical-scientific standpoint.”

In a statement, Keefer said, “FDA treatments for Covid-19 are limited for both in and out-patient, so why are we taking anything off the table?  Even worse, we are almost 2 years into this and STILL, no out-patient treatment exists for anyone testing positive?  Monoclonal therapy is rationed for only those deemed “vulnerable”.  Doctors throughout the world, and across the US have successfully been using a host of repurposed drugs to treat covid-19 patients. Why are we obstructing and demonizing drugs, like Ivermectin, that is a Nobel Prizing winning drug that is on the NIH website – Table 2e – Characteristics of Antiviral Agents That are Approved or Under Evaluation for the Treatment of Covid-19

She went on to say “I’m not advocating for a specific drug; I’m advocating for patients’ rights and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.”

The Pa. House Health Committee meets Monday morning at 9 a.m. at the state capitol.

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