Off-label uses of prescription drugs could be allowed in Louisiana, with fail-safes

A proposal by the Louisiana Legislature seeks to authorize prescription drugs for uses that federal authorities have not approved. But an amendment to the measure gives state officials the right to intervene if such a requirement risks harming the public.

In legislatures and state assemblies across the country, lawmakers have tried to pave the way for off-label uses of prescription drugs, a practice that has spread during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, some claim that the drug ivermectin is effective in treating the virus, although the Food and Drug Administration has only authorized ivermectin to treat certain parasitic infections in humans and heartworms in animals.

Rep. Michael Echols’ House Bill 117, R-Monroe, does not specifically mention ivermectin. His original bill would have prevented the Louisiana Department of Health or any other state board, such as the state board of pharmacy, from restricting or limiting the distribution of prescription drugs for off-label uses. . He cleared the House on May 11 with a vote of 74-20.

On May 25, the Health and Welfare Senate approved the measure once it added an amendment that effectively overruled Echols’ ban. It reads that the proposal “…shall be construed to restrict, exclude or prohibit the Louisiana Department of Health or any licensing board or commission…from taking any action necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of be public against harm or abuse due to off-label use of prescription drugs.

The full Senate approved the amended bill on Wednesday, and it now returns to the House for approval of the changes.

The legislation for Echols, who holds accounting and MBA degrees, would apply to health care providers and pharmacists.

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