Alaska Legislature

Several Republican Alaska lawmakers push for easier access to ivermectin to ward off COVID

Several Republican Alaska lawmakers are urging easier access for residents to ivermectin amid the pandemic, though ivermectin is not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for preventing or treating COVID-19.

Senate Majority Leader Shelley Hughes of Palmer said she urged Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state health commissioner to consider supplying Alaskans with vitamins and drugs, including ivermectin, “that some Alaskan physicians are prescribing but pharmacies aren’t filling.”

Three Republican House members testified about ivermectin at a recent state pharmacy board meeting, Alaska Public Media reported.

“Maybe the pharmacists could be directed - or directed’s the wrong word - suggested that they allow the doctors to actually be doctors and do their jobs,” Rep. Kevin McCabe of Big Lake said. “The patient and the doctor should be the ones to decide.”

The board’s chair, Justin Ruffridge, a Kenai Peninsula pharmacist, in a letter to the House members after the meeting noted potential legal liability for pharmacists for drugs they dispense and said pharmacists were free to use their “professional judgment” when deciding whether to fill prescriptions.

He said the board has not threatened pharmacists’ licenses around the issue but said reports of misuse of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 “should give most prescribers and pharmacists reason to pause.”

Ivermectin is approved to treat certain infections caused by parasites in people. Some vaccine skeptics have championed its use around COVID-19.


[What is ivermectin, and where did people get the idea it can treat COVID?]

“Anyone who claims to be creating medical guidance and they don’t have vaccine as their No. 1 recommended tool are pushing misinformation,” said Coleman Cutchins, a state pharmacist. “Vaccine is our No. 1 drug for the prevention of severe disease from this virus.”

The National Institutes of Health has said there is “insufficient evidence for the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. Results from adequately powered, well-designed and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.”

People nonetheless have sought access.

[Some Alaska feed stores are out of a livestock dewormer because people bought it to treat COVID-19. Health officials say that’s a really bad idea.]

During the recent pharmacy board meeting, Rep. Ken McCarty of Chugiak expressed concern about “making sure that our state has all the medications necessary.” Rep. Christopher Kurka of Wasilla told board members that “we should allow doctors the freedom, if they’re using good clinical judgment, to treat their patients.”

McCabe said he’s heard from doctors, physician assistants and nurses in his district who are frustrated “when they issue a prescription and the pharmacy will not fill it because it’s ivermectin.”

Ruffridge pointed testifiers to a draft document under consideration by the board that highlights a joint position statement from three national medical and pharmacist groups that “strongly oppose” prescribing or dispensing ivermectin for COVID-19 outside a clinical trial.

Jeff Turner, a Dunleavy spokesperson, said the Republican governor “maintains that decisions regarding COVID should be left between individuals and their doctor.” He also referred to comments Dunleavy made earlier this year when asked about ivermectin.

“I know what ivermectin is - I’ve had horses and mules, and you use it for worming and other issues that horses and mules have,” Dunleavy said. “But as far as prescribing it as a therapy for humans, I haven’t heard about that.”

Dunleavy had COVID-19 earlier this year and later was vaccinated. He has urged Alaskans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but has also emphasized that it is a personal decision.