Ohio Bill Seeks to Push Ivermectin Treatment After Study Debunked COVID Easing Claims
© AP Photo / Paul SancyaA nurse holds a swabs and test tube kit to test people for COVID-19, the disease that is caused by the new coronavirus, at a drive through station set up in the parking lot of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., Monday, 16 March 2020.
© AP Photo / Paul Sancya
After being repped by podcasters Jimmy Dore and Joe Rogan, the antiparasitic drug ivermectin gained popularity as an alternative COVID-19 treatment amid the rising anti-vaccine movement. However, a recent study has poured cold water on their theories, finding no evidence of easing symptoms.
A new bill introduced last week in Ohio’s state legislature seeks to protect and encourage the use of so-called “alternative” COVID-19 treatments, including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which are not approved or recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose.
House Bill 631, introduced by Republican state Rep. Kris Jordan on Thursday, would require Ohio boards and departments of health to increase distribution of the drugs and would ban health care professionals from blocking them or recommending against their use, if their patients request it.
Protected by the would-be law are four drugs: ivermectin, used to treat a variety of infections involving worms, nematodes, and mites; hydroxychloroquine, an antiparasitic used to treat malaria; budesonide, a steroid sometimes used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; and azithromycin, an antibacterial drug. None are approved or recommended for COVID-19 treatment or address any symptom common to the airborne respiratory virus.
Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, the chief quality and patient safety officer at Wexner Medical Center, told WCMH that HB 631 “absolutely” poses a threat to the health of Ohioans.
Gonsenhauser said the bill “supports the use of therapies that are not intended to treat COVID, have been proven – really beyond a shadow of a doubt – to be unsuccessful in the treatment of COVID, and have actually been shown to have significant safety consequences.”
Indeed, beyond the FDA’s warnings about the drugs, a study published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that “Treatment with ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of Covid-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of Covid-19.”
The paper was based on “a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, adaptive platform trial involving symptomatic SARS-CoV-2–positive adults recruited from 12 public health clinics in Brazil.”
Early in the pandemic, an article in the PMC PubMed journal suggested that ivermectin could inhibit replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, but the FDA later clarified that its conclusions were misleading and based on meta-analysis. The agency now recommends against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19, warning that there’s no proof that it works and that it’s very easy to overdose on, making you even sicker.
Despite these warnings, several anti-vaccine celebrities, including comedian Jimmy Dore and podcaster Joe Rogan, have hailed ivermectin as a drug for people who don’t want to cooperate with vaccine mandates.
Similarly, hydroxychloroquine was an early-pandemic celebrity drug made especially popular by then-US President Donald Trump, who claimed just weeks into the pandemic that he was taking the drug as a pre-exposure prophylactic.
“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation and ventricular tachycardia. These risks may increase when these medicines are combined with other medicines known to prolong the QT interval, including azithromycin,” the FDA’s page on the drug reads. If a health professional is considering prescribing the drug, the FDA urges them to look for an alternative.
Ohio’s not the only state where Republicans have continued to push “alternative” treatments, however: at least 26 states have introduced or passed legislation giving people access to the drugs. Earlier this month, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill turning ivermectin into an over-the-counter drug, and in Kansas last month, the state Senate passed a bill requiring pharmacists to fill prescriptions for off-label drugs like ivermectin.