HARRISBURG, Pa. — As more Pennsylvanians are diagnosed with COVID-19, families of those infected are ready to give alternative treatments a try to save dying loved ones. But the path to experiment controversial medicines is not an easy one.
On Monday, Rep. Dawn Keefer, who serves York and Cumberland Counties spoke in front of the state health committee on the benefits of House Bill 1741. The bill, written by Rep. Keefer, would give doctors the approval to prescribe off-label drugs like Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.
"We need to give everyone more resources and effort into treatment, preventative and outpatient treatment as we are the vaccines," said Keefer.
Ivermectin is FDA approved to treat parasites in animals and to treat parasitic worms in humans. However, the FDA has said the drug has not been approved to treat COVID-19 and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even death if taken in large doses.
Hydroxychloroquine is FDA approved to treat chronic discoid lupus erythematosus, systemic lupus erythematosus in adults, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, the FDA issued a caution against using the drug to treat COVID-19 as it causes heart rhythm problems in patients.
The FDA warnings have caused some hospitals to keep the two drugs off their treatment plan to help fight COVID-19. Still, some doctors who believe the drugs can work say institutions are blocking them from being able to freely treat their patients.
"My purpose here today is to rebuild the physician-patient covenant and prevent physicians' hands from being tied," said Dr. Chaminie Wheeler, a doctor in the Bucks County area.
However, other medical professionals say monoclonal treatments and vaccines are the only two treatments for COVID-19.
"There's no supplement or other over-the-counter treatments that would come close to the effectiveness of vaccines," said Dr. Denise Johnson, Pa Physician General.
The Democratic Caucus also chimed in, saying:
“Requiring a pharmacist to dispense a prescription limits their ability to intervene in situations where a patient is prescribed conflicting medications. House Bill 1741 would tie the hands of medical professionals to prevent potentially lethal combinations of drugs.”
- Nicole Reigelman, Democratic Caucus Spokesperson.
"I think we can't put everyone in a box in medicine. One situation is not for every individual," Dr. Wheeler added.
Rep. Keefer said she plans to amend the current bill and hopes to move it out of House Committee by February.