BY: GREG LAROSE
A proposal in the Louisiana Legislature seeks to clear prescription drugs for uses that federal authorities have not approved. But an amendment to the measure gives state officials the right to step in if any such prescription stands to harm the public.
In legislatures and state assemblies around the country, lawmakers have attempted to clear the way for off-label uses of prescription medication, a practice that spread during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, some claim the drug ivermectin to be effective in treating the virus, although the Food and Drug Administration has only authorized ivermectin to treat certain parasitic infections in humans and heart worms in animals.
House Bill 117 from Rep. Michael Echols, R-Monroe, does not specifically mention ivermectin. His original bill would have prevented the Louisiana Department of Health or any state licensing board, such as the state Board of Pharmacy, from restricting or limiting the dispensing of prescription drugs for off-label uses. It cleared the House on May 11 with a 74-20 vote.
On May 25, the Senate Health and Welfare approve the measure once it added an amendment that effectively neutered Echols’ prohibition. It reads that the proposal “… shall be construed to restrict, preclude, or prohibit the Louisiana Department of Health or any licensing board or commission … from taking all actions necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare from harm or abuse due to prescription drug off-label use.”
The full Senate approved the amended the bill Wednesday, and it now goes back to the House for concurrence with the changes.
The legislation from Echols, who holds accounting and MBA degrees, would apply to healthcare providers and pharmacists.