South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson weighed in on the ongoing battle over Covid-19 treatments this week, publishing an opinion which concluded that doctors in the Palmetto State have the authority to prescribe “off-label” drugs to treat the virus.
“Our doctors, as well as their patients, need to know that doctors have the right to make important medical decisions, as long as they have the informed consent of their patients,” Wilson said in a statement announcing the publication of the opinion. “In fighting Covid, the doctor should be given the broadest possible leeway.”
Wilson’s opinion – released on Friday morning – came in response to a request from state senator Shane Martin of Pauline, S.C. and state representative Bill Taylor of Aiken, S.C. In seeking the opinion, these two GOP lawmakers expressed concern that “hospitals across our state are refusing to allow doctors to prescribe, or their hospital pharmacies to dispense, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, or other ‘off-label use medication’ for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19.”
Martin and Taylor sought an opinion from Wilson as to whether there was “any prohibition” to doctors prescribing “off-label” treatments for Covid-19 – i.e. the use of medications or methods not originally intended.
“The physician-patient relationship is given constitutional dimension by the courts and broad – if not absolute – deference in a doctor’s prescribing medications to his or her patient, whether such prescriptions relate to off-label use or not,” Wilson wrote in the opinion, adding that “courts have expressed time and again a reluctance to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship or in the policies of a hospital.”
“The physician who prescribes a drug for ‘off-label’ use is acting in accordance with generally accepted medical practice, as we understand it, and courts have so held,” Wilson continued, citing the authority of the federal government over the marketing and distribution of drugs, but not the “practice of medicine.”
Wilson referenced an October 2021 opinion (.pdf) from the office of Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson which grappled with many of these same issues.
“The available data does not justify filing disciplinary actions against physicians simply because they prescribe ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine to prevent or treat COVID-19,” Peterson’s opinion noted. “If, on the other hand, healthcare providers neglect to obtain informed consent, deceive their patients, prescribe excessively high doses, fail to check for contraindications, or engage in other misconduct, they might be subject to discipline. But based on the evidence that currently exists, the mere fact of prescribing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 will not result in our office filing disciplinary actions.”
Indeed, the Nebraska attorney general added that “allowing physicians to consider these early treatments will free them to evaluate additional tools that could save lives, keep patients out of the hospital, and provide relief for our already strained healthcare system.”
A June 2021 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics – and reprinted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – found “large, statistically significant reductions in mortality, time to clinical recovery, and time to viral clearance” in controlled treatment trials of ivermectin.”
The same study “reduced risks of contracting Covid-19 with the regular use of ivermectin.”
Both lawmakers who requested the opinion were effusive in their praise of Wilson.
“South Carolina law strongly supports the principle of no interference in a physician’s prescription of medication to his or her patient, including for the treatment of COVID-19 through off-label drugs.” Martin told me. “Thank you, Alan Wilson for acting as the only statewide elected official to protect the rights of doctors and patients. I invite anyone out there who knows of a violation of the law to reach out to my office, and I will shine the light on their plight and the medical facility putting lives at risk. I also insist that the hospitals which have ignored the law and harmed patients to stop – right now. Thank you again, attorney general Wilson, for helping desperate South Carolinians when no one else would.”
Martin has been a leader in the S.C. Senate on this issue, pushing executive branch officials to act in defense of patients.
Taylor was also thrilled with Wilson’s opinion.
“The attorney general has provided us with a timely and tremendously important reminder of long-standing South Carolina law that clearly states so long as doctors obtain informed consent, do not act in obviously negligent or dangerous ways, and have not deceived their patients, then neither the government nor hospitals nor pharmacies can get in their way when they prescribe medicine that can save their patients’ lives, or otherwise heal them,” the legislative veteran told me.
“This attorney general opinion bolsters the stance of brave doctors who have secretly treated patients with ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, steroids, heavy vitamin doses, and other methods to combat Covid,” Taylor added. “These doctors have been threatened by their accreditation agencies and hospitals for using successful treatments that have saved lives. Most hospitals have adhered to the ever-fluid CDC protocols, which limit treatment. Families know that having a loved one placed on a ventilator is an almost certain death sentence.”
Importantly, Wilson’s opinion declined to weigh in on whether hospitals could take action against “a physician’s privileges for off-label drug usage.”
“Such review is more appropriately accomplished through legal analysis over a fact-specific contractual relationship between a doctor and an admitting hospital,” Wilson wrote.
THE OPINION …MartinS-TaylorB-OS-10742-FINAL-Opinion-2-11-2022-02898337xD2C78
(Via: S.C. Attorney General)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats – including that retro Atlanta Braves’ lid pictured above (worn upon request).
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