Bill to protect doctors prescribing ivermectin, other unproven drugs against covid advances in Pa. – TribLIVE

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A state House committee on Monday approved a bill that would free doctors to prescribe off-label drugs to treat covid-19 and allow pharmacists to fill the prescriptions, also without penalty.
The bill was authored by Republican state Rep. Dawn Keefer of York County.
It was approved by the health committee by a 15-10 vote, with Democrats opposing. It still needs approval from the full House and Senate and would have to be signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Keefer changed the bill slightly before Monday’s vote, removing names of specific drugs such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. The new version allows doctors to prescribe what Keefer described as “more than two dozen different drugs that doctors have been using successfully” against covid-19.
She also changed it to say pharmacists “may” rather than “shall” fill the prescriptions. It means pharmacists can opt not to fill a prescription if they see potential for harm such as allergic reaction or conflict with another drug.
Keefer said she wants to help “patients who are told in the hospital there’s nothing else we can do for them. Why not a hail Mary?”
“This bill simply allows health care professionals to treat patients with FDA-approved drugs without risking their license or their livelihood,” she said.
Democrats argued the bill will require doctors to comply with demands for drugs from patients rather than conform to accepted standards of care.
“Doctors should not direct patients away from proven care towards unproven remedies,” Democratic said Rep. Bridget Kosierowski of Lackawanna County.
The bill applies to off-label use of drugs — the common practice of using approved drugs to treat conditions that are different from the approved use.
Democrats objected to wording in the bill which says doctors prescribing such drugs to treat covid-19 can only be penalized in cases of “recklessness and gross negligence.”
“I don’t know why we would set the bar so high … I think simple negligence would be an acceptable standard,” said Rep. Benjamin Sanchez of Montgomery County.
The action on Keefer’s bill comes as many people, especially those who reject covid-19 vaccine, demand access to ivermectin for treatment and prevention of covid-19.
Ivermectin has been used to safely and effectively treat certain parasitic infections in humans. However, most experts believe the jury is out on its effectiveness against covid-19.
Doctors at Duke University are leading a study to determine if ivermectin and three other repurposed drugs work against covid-19.
One of the doctors recently told The News & Observer in North Carolina, “There were some early studies that showed it could potentially be helpful with covid-19, but they were not large enough to be definitive. … So we want to know either way, is it potentially beneficial or not.”
Most doctors say vaccine is by far the safest and best tool against covid-19, stressing that unvaccinated people for months have accounted for the vast majority of severe covid-19 illnesses and deaths.
In arguing for approval of her bill, Keefer said doctors and hospitals are sticking with approved treatments to an extent she called “criminal.” She said people have told her of doctors refusing their pleas for alternative treatments for desperately-ill loved ones.
“There remain no approved outpatient treatment strategies and no competent inpatient treatment strategies,” Keefer said. “And despite knowing the fatal risk of going on a ventilator, there’s no formidable treatment strategy that exhausts all possible options before intubating patients.”
Kosierowski, a former intensive care and surgical nurse, disputed the idea of doctors being quick to put patients on ventilators.
“Believe me, it is a last resort,” she said. “It is something that is life-saving, because the patient can no longer breath.”
Keefer said the bill wouldn’t protect doctors such as Dr. Edith Behr. Behr was fired recently by a Pennsylvania health system which alleged she failed to follow prescribing standards, including getting patients’ histories and checking for possible allergic reactions.

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