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Iowa lawmakers advance bill that would allow use of ivermectin on COVID-19 patients

A House subcommittee has advanced a bill that would allow medical professionals to prescribe ivermectin to COVID-19 patients on ventilators, despite warning from the FDA not to use the drug for COVID treatment or prevention.

A House subcommittee has voted along party lines to advance a bill that would allow medical professionals to prescribe Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs for off-label use on patients who are terminally ill or on life support.

The bill would permit doctors to prescribe ivermectin to COVID-19 patients on a ventilator.

The medication is used primarily as a horse deworming pill and is not authorized by the FDA for use in COVID patients. In humans, ivermectin is approved for treating infections caused by some parasitic worms and for some skin conditions.

Demand for ivermectin to treat COVID infections has spiked in recent months, despite warnings from the FDA not to use it to treat or prevent COVID.

Rep. Ann Meyer, a Republican from Fort Dodge on the House subcommittee and one of the bill's sponsors, said it was inspired by a COVID patient’s experience.

"The patient had been on the ventilator, been in the hospital two weeks, didn't have a lot of hope. Patient wanted to try medication that they had in hand, and as it turned out, they were not able to try and the patient expired," she said.

Rep. Lee Hein, a Republican from Montezuma, said he decided to sponsor the bill after hearing about a doctor who was unable to prescribe an off-label drug for a COVID patient despite the family's request.

"I think at that late stage in the game, once you're on a ventilator, families ought to have at least a glimmer of hope to try something." he said.

Rep. Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, did not vote to advance the bill, saying she doesn’t know enough about its possible impact.

Mascher noted that none of the lobbyists at the subcommittee hearing, which included some who represented health care organizations and pharmaceutical companies, testified for or against the bill.

"There's a lot of folks in the room who are medical folks, and I have heard no one in support of the bill," she said. "And I find that a little bit confusing just because normally, they are on one side or another."

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter