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NC bill seeks to protect doctors who prescribe off-label drugs for COVID. But docs don’t need the protection.

Rep. Bobby Hanig

This post has been updated.

A bill filed this week would prevent the state Medical Board from disciplining doctors who prescribe drugs off-label to treat COVID-19.

It looks like doctors don’t need a legal shield, though. The NC Medical Board doesn’t discipline doctors for prescribing for off-label uses.

House bill 1085,  sponsored by Currituck County Republican Rep. Bobby Hanig, does not mention ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine by name, but it is similar to bills filed more than a dozen states, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards, that seek to shield doctors from discipline for prescribing these unproven drugs as COVID treatments.

Republican lawmakers in a committee late last year questioned a UNC epidemiologist about allowing hospitalized COVID patients to take ivermectin, a drug approved for treatment of parasitic infections in humans.

Hanig could not be reached for comment Friday.

Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are not FDA approved COVID treatments. Oral medications Paxlovid and Legevrio, and monoclonal antibodies are authorized  COVID-19 therapies for some patients who aren’t hospitalized, and remdesivir is authorized to treat hospitalized patients.

The North Carolina Medical Board does not have any position on the bill, spokeswoman Jean Fisher Brinkley said Friday.

Off-label use of prescription drugs is common, she said, and the board does not discipline doctors or physician assistants for employing a routinely used treatment strategy. The board has not cited any doctors for prescribing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, she said.

In August 2020, the board issued a “public letter of concern” about a physician assistant who prescribed hydroxychloroquine to himself and family members for the purpose of stockpiling it. He prescribed the drug without documenting it on patient charts.

The people for whom the physician assistant wrote prescriptions were not sick with COVID or any other illness.

“When accepted standards – which include conducting an appropriate medical examination, securing sufficient clinical information to reach a diagnosis and creating a medical record of the encounter – are not followed, the board may take action against the provider,” Fisher said in an email.

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