Push for ivermectin, other alternative COVID treatments reaches Statehouse

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 5:52 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The push for ivermectin and other alternative prescription treatments for COVID-19 has reached the Statehouse in Topeka. One of the lawmakers supporting the bill, Sen. Mark Steffen, an anesthesiologist, said he’s under investigation by the Board of Healing Arts and has prescribed the anti-parasite drug for patients with COVID-19.

The bill at the center of Wednesday’s hearing would allow for the off-label prescribing of drugs for COVID-19 like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Off-label prescribing is a regular practice, but the question is whether the drugs are effective.

Dr. Festus Krebs III is one of the doctors and healthcare providers speaking in favor of the bill, Senate Bill 381.

“With ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, we now have 76 ivermectin COVID-19 controlled studies which show 66 percent overall improvement and 57 percent decreased mortality,” Dr. Krebs said.

In a press conference discussing the impact from the latest COVID-19 wave, doctors and hospital leaders from across Kansas addressed the bill, some warning that prescribing these drugs isn’t evidence-based.

“We can write for off-label medications when there’s evidence, medical evidence that supports its use,” said University of Kansas Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites. “…(The) problem is that many of the articles that originally supported that had to be retracted because they were falsified or had false information. So, the reality is that there aren’t many articles. There are a lot more articles that say it doesn’t work.”

Steffen, a chief sponsor of the bill, said prescribers would remain libel, but pharmacists would be immune from penalties.

Some doctors who spoke at the Statehouse Wednesday said even when they prescribed drugs as alternative treatments for COVID-19, pharmacists wouldn’t fill them.

“That needs to be between the physician and patient with benefits and risks explained, and, of course, of treatment chosen,” Dr. Jesse Lopez said in support of the Senate bill. “That’s what this is about. Unfortunately, because of politics, we choose this for our patient because that’s what they desire, and we get shut out.”

But some hospital leaders say what this does is put the legislature in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship.

“That’s a pretty slippery slope to a pretty dangerous place,” said Salina Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Freelove. “If we’re going to require something, why not require something we know works, which is vaccines.”

The FDA has not authorized ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment.

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