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New Missouri law protects doctors who prescribe off-label drugs ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine

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Pharmacists assist in achieving wider vaccine distribution

Bill Schmittgens, left, an out-of-town licensed pharmacist, administers a second dose of the Moderna vaccine on Thursday, April 22, 2021, to Jocelyn McIntosh-Bradford of Bel-Nor. Schmittgens and his mother, Lynn Schmittgens, not pictured, who is a retired pharmacist with The Medicine Shoppe in Affton, were at Greater Love Adult Daycare in University City as volunteers with a Missouri association of pharmacists. The initiative is an effort by pharmacists to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to groups who have been missed by other efforts. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A new law in Missouri prohibits pharmacists from questioning doctors who prescribe the controversial off-label drugs ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for patients.

The measure, which goes into effect in August, was signed Tuesday by Gov. Mike Parson after it was approved by the Legislature in May.

Under the law, state medical licensing boards would be prohibited from punishing or taking away the medical licenses of doctors who “lawfully” prescribe the two drugs, which became unproven alternatives to treating COVID-19 among people who opposed vaccinations.

The law also bars pharmacists from contacting a doctor or patient “to dispute the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use” unless the doctor or patient asks about the drugs’ effectiveness.

Ivermectin is typically used to treat parasitic worms in horses. The drug is authorized for humans to treat infections caused by parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions like rosacea, but not COVID-19.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tweeted in August 2021.

In September 2021, Dr. Steven Brown of Chesterfield told KMOV (Channel 4) that cases of ivermectin toxicity had occurred at Mercy hospitals across the state. Brown is a virtual care physician for Mercy.

“People who are relying upon ivermectin and remaining unvaccinated are under a tremendous false sense of security,” Brown said. “I have seen people with ivermectin toxicity in the emergency room from taking the animal formulation. I’ve seen people who relied on ivermectin to prevent themselves from getting COVID who are on ventilators and who have died.”

Hydroxychloroquine was developed to treat malaria caused by mosquito bites.

The FDA in July 2020 said hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit for decreasing the likelihood of death or speeding recovery from the coronavirus.

The agency also received multiple reports of people who have been hospitalized after taking ivermectin intended for livestock, according to its website.

The Missouri Pharmacy Association opposed the legislation.

“We were not happy with the whole discussion. I think we got the language where it is tolerable for pharmacists,” executive director Ron Fitzwater said Tuesday. “It’s an example of something that when you let outside factors get involved in policy. It’s very unfortunate.”

The legislation, which was added as an amendment to a package of changes to medical licensing regulations, was sponsored by Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville.

He said he had heard concerns from doctors about potential repercussions if they prescribed the two drugs.

“They were in fear of potentially losing their licenses if they were turned in,” Brattin said Tuesday. “They wanted something done about it.”

He said the two drugs had become “politicized” during the pandemic.

“Certain pharmacists wanted to begin acting like physicians and denying the filling of the prescriptions. This reestablishes the professional equilibrium between doctors and pharmacists,” Brattin said.

Rep. Patty Lewis, D-Kansas City, earlier told the Kansas City Star that Democrats agreed to the language in the bill to satisfy a group of hard-right conservatives in the Senate.

Brattin, who is aligned with the Senate’s “Conservative Caucus,” is running to represent Missouri’s 4th District in Congress.

The legislation is House Bill 2149.

Posted at 2:43 p.m. Tuesday, June 7. 

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