TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate Health Committee plans to kick off two days of hearings Tuesday on legislation exempting physicians from disciplinary action by licensing boards for the unintended consequences of prescribing FDA-approved drugs, the ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for off-label use against COVID-19.
The issue was championed by Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson-area physician and Republican member of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Legislation designed to protect doctors from adverse exposure in terms of alternative COVID-19 treatments was backed by Kansans for Health Freedom, an organization concerned about vaccinations being rolled out during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need huge representation on Capitol Hill for the hearing,” Kansans for Health Freedom said in a notice to supporters. “A group of doctors will testify orally, but we need our legislators on Capitol Hill to see that the Kansans will no longer accept this. Doctors must be allowed to treat their patients freely. We know that early treatment for COVID works and doctors must be allowed to treat without fear of action by licensing boards.
On Monday, doctors at the University of Kansas Health System said politicians’ intrusion into the work of doctors caring for patients with COVID-19 was wrong and dangerous.
“It’s politics, unfortunately, and not health care,” said Steve Stites, chief medical officer of the KU Health System. “It’s really weird to me that politicians…want to get into medicine.”
He said the United States would have made better progress in controlling COVID-19 if efforts in pandemic politics had been devoted to the effort to control the virus.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Monday reported nearly 15,000 additional cases of coronavirus infection along with 71 additional hospitalizations and 17 additional deaths related to the pandemic. The weekend spike brought the state’s total to 695,675 cases, 17,938 hospitalizations and 7,336 deaths.
State Rep. John Eplee, a Republican primary care physician from Atchison, said in an interview that there was no need to enact a new provision in state law allowing doctors to prescribe drugs. medicines for off-label use. Doctors already have the power to do so within certain limits, but could be held responsible for the negative results of their actions.
Eplee said he was not aware of any action by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts against a physician writing off-label prescriptions during the pandemic. He said he signed prescriptions for low-volume “placebo” amounts of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to patients who insisted on access to those drugs.
He also said the two drugs highlighted by Steffen and others were not advocated by most doctors for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Other drugs approved in the past two months by the US Food and Drug Administration could be “game-changing” and likely to erode public demand for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, he said.
The FDA has not cleared ivermectin, typically used to treat or prevent parasites in animals, for human use against COVID-19. Ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications, the FDA said, but the agency advised patients who receive a prescription for the drug in connection with COVID-19 to follow the doctor’s instructions precisely. .
Hydroxychloroquine is FDA-approved to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases, but the FDA claimed in mid-January that the drug had not been shown to be safe and effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.
In December, the FDA approved the use of the antiviral drugs paxlovid and molnupiravor for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19. The FDA decided last week to expand the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir to certain adult and non-hospitalized pediatric patients for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 disease.
Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the developments “strengthen the therapeutic arsenal to treat COVID-19 and respond to the rise of the omicron variant.”
Steffen, who presented a resolution opposing the vaccination of children against COVID-19, said it was a mistake to prevent the deployment of hydroxychloroquine. The drug has been described by President Donald Trump as a “miracle” response to COVID-19. US Senator Roger Marshall, a Kansas doctor from Great Bend, said he took the drug to avoid COVID-19.
Additionally, Steffen said ivermectin was able to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. He said Americans had been “starved for early outpatient treatment” due to opposition from federal and state health officials.
Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention for the University of Kansas Health System, said much of the political debate about COVID-19 has been driven by politicians opposed to masking recommendations and d other advice to protect the public.
“It’s myopic myopia,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
He said most research reports touting ivermectin have been taken down due to falsification or misrepresentation of data. Unbiased research, he said, indicated that ivermectin had “no benefit.”
Meanwhile, Hawkinson and Stites said they were troubled by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s decision to sue dozens of school districts to block enforcement of mask mandates. Schmitt said there was no data to support claims that face coverings were effective against COVID-19.
“It is long overdue that the power to make health decisions about children be wrested from the hands of bureaucrats and put back into the hands of parents and families, and I will be suing school district after school district in court to achieve that goal,” Schmitt said. said in a statement.
“The idea that masks don’t work is so embarrassing,” Stites said. “People want to mutilate data for their own political gain.”
Hawkinson said the problem may be that some politicians have struggled to accurately assess health research that contained caveats in the results.
“I’m not sure there are many attorneys general in the United States who are epidemiologists or trained doctors or doctors,” he said.