Missouri bill targets 2-drug use dispute
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers this week passed legislation that appears to ban pharmacists from interviewing doctors who prescribe the controversial off-label drugs ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to patients.
The measure, which passed the House by a 130-4 vote, was incorporated into a professional licensing bill. Having won the approval of both houses, the bill is now heading to Governor Mike Parson’s office.
By its wording, the bill would prevent state medical licensing commissions from punishing or revoking the medical licenses of doctors who “legally” prescribe the two drugs. And it would prevent pharmacists from contacting doctors or patients “to dispute the effectiveness of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use” unless doctors or patients ask about the drug efficacy.
Republican Sen. Rick Brattin told reporters Thursday he added the amendment after speaking with doctors who feared losing their medical license for prescribing the drugs. Brattin, who said he once bought ivermectin for covid-19 but never took it, described the drug as “politicized”.
“Unfortunately, because of the politicization of these two drugs, [doctors are] be targeted,” he said. “I wanted to protect them from that.
The bill, particularly Brattin’s amendment, quickly drew criticism on social media from people who pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19. The drug is licensed for humans to treat infections caused by parasitic worms, head lice, and skin conditions such as rosacea.
The agency has received several reports of people being hospitalized after taking ivermectin intended for livestock, according to its website.
“The Missouri Legislature chose to ‘own the libs’ by issuing a gag order against every pharmacist in that state not to offer their medical opinion on taking any of these drugs. — even if it could kill their patient,” the former U.S. House candidate said. Lindsey Simmons wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Patty Lewis, a Democrat who served on the committee overseeing the bill, told reporters Thursday that Democrats agreed to the language of the measure to satisfy a group of far-right conservatives in the Senate.
She said the parts of the bill relating to the two drugs would not change anything in the medical community, adding that medical licensing boards would already not punish a doctor for prescribing a drug legally.
“This language, along with a few buzzwords, is meant to silence some tough, stubborn Conservative senators,” she said. “It’s not necessary; it’s not necessary. It’s ‘do nothing’ language just to make sure the bill doesn’t fail in the Senate.”
Elsewhere, Massachusetts said Thursday it had agreed to pay $56 million to resolve allegations that leaders of a state-run retirement home for military veterans showed willful indifference during of a coronavirus outbreak linked to the deaths of 84 residents at the start of the pandemic.
An independent investigation had painted a picture of the chaos at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home when the virus began to pass through it in March 2020. Investigators criticized leaders for combining veterans from two locked dementia units into one unit, crushing those who were infected or showed symptoms with those who had no symptoms.
A social worker said it “felt like we were moving the concentration camp, we were unknowingly taking these veterans away to die.” A nurse described it as “total pandemonium”.
Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, accepting the findings of the investigation in June 2020, called them “nothing less heartbreaking.”
In the settlement, which came after months of intensive negotiations with the governor’s office, neither state officials nor those running the house admitted wrongdoing or apologized for the treatment of the people. veterans there, attorneys for the veterans’ families said.
Nevertheless, Linda McKee, who lost her father, James Miller, a 96-year-old World War II veteran, said she was happy to see the state “finally accepting some responsibility for what happened. “.
“Memories of how my father was treated at the soldiers’ home will never be erased from my memory,” McKee said in a statement released by his attorneys, Michael Aleo and Tom Lesser. “It would have been more humane if he had died at Omaha Beach in Normandy than the way he died at the soldiers’ house.”
Under the agreement, the families of 84 veterans who contracted covid-19 and died before June 23, 2020 will receive at least $400,000, with an average award of $510,000, Aleo and Lesser said.
Another group of 84 veterans who were infected but survived after June 23, 2020, will receive no less than $10,000, with an average award of $20,000, the lawyers said, adding that payments to both groups would not be reduced by legal fees.
A former US attorney from Massachusetts, Donald Stern, will administer the claims fund and issue awards based on a review of each claimant’s circumstances.
The settlement still needs to be approved by a federal judge and funded by the state legislature.
Baker said he would file a bill in the coming weeks seeking $56 million for the claims fund. Once the settlement is complete, Aleo and Lesser said, the families who filed a class action lawsuit against four home leaders and the Secretary of State for Veterans Services in July 2020 will drop their case.
Lesser called the resolution “fair and equitable” and said it would prevent protracted litigation.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers Home has been a terrible tragedy,” Baker said in a statement Thursday. “While we know nothing can bring back those who have been lost, we hope this settlement will bring a sense of closure to loved ones of veterans.”
The independent investigation, led by former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein, was particularly critical of the decision to consolidate veterans into one service – a move one employee described as “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in all my life”.
A social worker recalled hearing the head nurse say ‘something to the effect that this room will be dead by Sunday, so we will have more room here’. Another social worker described seeing a supervisor pointing to a room and saying, “This whole room will be dead by tomorrow.”
The report details other errors, including the rotation of staff members between departments, which accelerated the spread of the virus.
He said the decisions made by the facility’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, were “utterly baffling from an infection control perspective” and inconsistent with the home’s mission to treat veterans with “honor and dignity”.
Walsh’s supervisor, Francisco Urena, resigned as secretary of state for veterans services ahead of the report, telling TV station WCVB: “I’m so sorry. I did the best I could. “
In November, a judge dismissed criminal negligence charges against Walsh, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel with no previous nursing home experience, and the home’s former medical director, Dr. David Clinton. The state attorney general’s office appealed the decision.
Information for this article was provided by Kacen Bayless of the Kansas City Star (TNS) and Michael Levenson of The New York Times.