Doctors can prescribe controversial COVID drugs

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The Nebraska attorney general said Friday that he would not initiate disciplinary action against doctors who prescribe controversial off-label drugs to treat and prevent coronavirus infection as long as they get patient consent and t engage in misconduct.

Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office released a legal opinion stating that there is no data to justify legal action against health care professionals using ivermectin, a decade-old parasite treatment, or hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug prescribed by former President Donald Trump trying to prevent COVID-19 infection.

“Based on the evidence currently available, the mere fact that we are prescribing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 will not result in our office taking disciplinary action,” the Republican Attorney General said in the statement.

Many health professionals and leading medical groups have tried to stop using both drugs on the grounds that they can have harmful side effects and there is little evidence that they help. It’s also unclear whether many doctors actually prescribe them in Nebraska or elsewhere, although a few isolated cases have occurred nationally.

In a joint statement last month, the American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists said they firmly oppose ivermectin’s use as a COVID-19 drug outside of a clinical trial.

“We are alarmed by reports that outpatient prescribing and dispensing of ivermectin has increased 24-fold since before the pandemic and has grown exponentially in the past few months,” the groups said.

Ivermectin has been promoted by Republican lawmakers, Conservative talk show hosts, and some doctors, and has been given out through social media to millions of Americans who don’t want to be vaccinated. It is widely used in other countries as well, including India and Brazil.

Hydroxychloroquine was similarly increased, despite warnings from the American Medical Association that the drug is an unproven and potentially dangerous treatment for the virus.

In Arkansas, a state medical panel is investigating reports that a doctor has prescribed ivermectin to county prison inmates, including several who said they did not know what they were given.

Kansas U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, a Republican and medical doctor, has admitted that he took hydroxychloroquine with his parents, siblings, and wife throughout his 2020 campaign, but did not say how they got their prescriptions.

In Nebraska, the Attorney General’s Office said it was not recommending specific treatments for the virus and would still prosecute doctors for failing to obtain patient consent, prescribing excessively high doses, or failing to verify what other drugs a patient is taking. The opinion is only valid for doctors who prescribe the drugs for prevention and early treatment in outpatients.

“When doctors consider these early treatments, they can evaluate additional tools that will save lives, keep patients out of the hospital and relieve our already strained healthcare system,” the statement said.

The opinion came in response to a request from the Nebraska Department of Health to license and discipline doctors. The attorney general’s office files complaints on behalf of the public against health care providers who violate government regulations and endanger their patients, and the department has the power to suspend or revoke their licenses or take other action.

Dannette Smith, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health, said in her application letter that consumers and doctors have been inundated with information about COVID-19 treatments and “it may be difficult to determine the quality or validity of the information.” what doctors can legally prescribe.

Peterson was first elected attorney general in 2014 and won re-election in 2018. He has not said publicly whether he wants to run again next year.

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