RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill championed by state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) that would have protected doctors who prescribe hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to COVID-19 patients was rejected by a Virginia Senate Committee Thursday.
“A patient has a right to life,” Chase said. “And should not be prevented from life-saving — or, potentially life-saving — medication.”
Chase also mentioned several other drugs she wanted used to treat COVID-19 during her presentation, although the bill only applied to ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
“Those should include, but not be limited to, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, vitamin C, vitamin D, melatonin, fluvoxamine, spironolactone and other medications,” Chase said.
Fluvoxamine is an anti-depressant that has shown some promise as an anti-coronavirus drug, and may soon receive an emergency use authorization. Under current law, that would allow it to be prescribed without legislative intervention.
Spironolactone is a testosterone blocker often prescribed to trans women.
What the Bill Does
All of these drugs are legal for doctors to prescribe, but they could face disciplinary action for doing so in ways that contradict established clinical practice and guidance from the board of medicine.
“Why do we need a code section making it legal to prescribe?” asked state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax).
Both the Virginia Board of Pharmacy and Virginia Board of Medicine have issued guidance against the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19, but acknowledge they have legitimate uses for other diseases.
SB 73 would have barred those bodies from disciplining doctors and pharmacists who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients.
According to the FDA, there is currently no good evidence that ivermectin is effective in treating COVID-19, and the National Institutes of Health advise that hydroxychloroquine in fact lengthened the hospital stays of those diagnosed with COVID-19 in randomized trials.
Chase brought two physicians with her to speak in favor of the bill. The first, Dr. Paul Marik, lost his positions at Eastern Virginia Medical School and Norfolk General Hospital after suing Sentara healthcare for the right to prescribe ivermectin to COVID patients.
“This action by the hospital has resulted in the death of at least 250 people I could have saved,” Marik said during the committee hearing.
He’s also faced disciplinary action from the state board of medicine — but not for prescribing ivermectin. In 2021, he was found to have improperly written prescription, including for narcotics, to at least five people who were not his patients.
Dr. Sheila Furey, who maintains a practice in the Richmond area, said she’s treated “over 200 people successfully with ivermectin.”
However, Furey isn’t a critical care doctor, internist, infectious disease specialist, or pulmonologist. She’s a child psychiatrist and former Republican candidate for the House of Delegates.
The bill was ultimately defeated by a 9-6 vote along partisan lines, with Committee Chair Louise Lucas (D – Portsmouth) ushering rowdy supporters of Chase’s bill from the committee room.
“Senator Lucas you will repay, you will pay for this one day!” one woman yelled.
Lucas requested that bailiffs clear the room, and the committee moved on to other legislation.