Some Ohio Republicans Want Law Promoting 'Alternative' COVID Treatments

Ohio Republicans have introduced a bill that would force the promotion of ivermectin and other "alternative" treatments for COVID-19 in the state.

Ohio's House Bill 631 would force officials to "promote and increase distribution" of ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and budesonide—all drugs that are not approved as treatments for the coronavirus by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bill was introduced by Ohio state Representative Kris Jordan and co-sponsored by seven of his Republican colleagues on Thursday night.

The proposed law would also block local health departments from working to "suppress the promotion of or access" to the drugs and prohibit attempts to "reprimand, threaten, or penalize" health care workers who insist on prescribing, administering or promoting them.

Although all of the medicines included in the bill do have legitimate and FDA-approved medical uses, clinical evidence has not backed up repeated claims by some that they are effective in treating COVID-19.

Ohio Republicans COVID-19 Ivermectin Bill Hydroxychloroquine Treatments
A bill introduced by Ohio House Republicans would force health officials to "promote" ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and other drugs as "alternative treatments" for COVID-19, despite a lack of evidence that they work. Above, a selection of drugs promoted as treatments for the coronavirus are pictured in this undated file photo. Sergio Yoneda/Getty

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, told Columbus news station WCMH that the bill would "absolutely" pose a threat to public health if it were to become law.

Gonsenhauser accused the supporters of the bill of hypocrisy for seeking to mandate the promotion of unproven and potentially harmful drugs while having previously rallied against COVID-19 vaccines, which have been FDA approved or authorized and are backed by evidence.

"Those same individuals are now introducing a bill that supports the use of therapies that are not intended to treat COVID, have been proven—really beyond a shadow of a doubt—to be unsuccessful in the treatment of COVID, and have actually been shown to have significant safety consequences," Gonsenhauser told WCMH.

Hydroxychloroquine, notably pushed by former President Donald Trump during the early months of the pandemic, was briefly issued an FDA emergency use authorization in April 2020. Months later, the authorization was withdrawn over concerns about potential side effects and a lack of effectiveness. Research since then has failed to prove any relevant benefits.

Ivermectin, approved as an anti-parasitic, has remained popular as an alternative treatment for COVID-19 despite clinical evidence and medical experts repeatedly saying that it does not work. A large double-blinded, placebo-controlled and randomized trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month found that the drug was useless as a treatment for the virus.

Evidence is also lacking for alternative treatment azithromycin, which is an antibiotic, a class of drugs that fight bacteria. Gonsenhauser's comments to WCMH noted that "COVID is a virus—not a bacteria—and that's an important, very significant distinction."

A small number of studies have suggested that budesonide, a corticosteroid, could provide a slight benefit in shortening COVID-19 recovery time. However, the evidence is far from conclusive and analysis from the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence concluded that there was "no statistically significant difference" between the drug and conventional treatments.

In addition to the four listed drugs, the bill also covers new medications and therapies that may be "deemed beneficial by the patient's treating health care professional in consultation with the patient or patient's legally authorized representative."

Newsweek reached out to Representative Kris Jordan's office for comment.

Update 4/22, 8:28 p.m. EDT: This article has been updated to correct the number in Ohio House Bill 631.