Doctors are free to prescribe ivermectin to treat COVID-19, a lawyer representing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said this week.
“FDA explicitly recognizes that doctors do have the authority to prescribe ivermectin to treat COVID,” Ashley Cheung Honold, a Department of Justice lawyer representing the FDA, said during oral arguments on Aug. 8 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
The government is defending the FDA’s repeated exhortations to people to not take ivermectin for COVID-19, including a post that said “Stop it.”
“The fundamental issue in this case is straightforward. After the FDA approves the human drug for sale, does it then have the authority to interfere with how that drug is used within the doctor-patient relationship? The answer is no,” Jared Kelson, representing the doctors, told the appeals court.
The FDA on Aug. 21, 2021, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” The post, which linked to an FDA page that says people shouldn’t use ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19, went viral.
In other statements, the FDA said that ivermectin “isn’t authorized or approved to treat COVID-19” and “Q: Should I take ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19? A: No.”
Command or Not
“FDA made these statements in response to multiple reports of consumers being hospitalized, after self medicating with ivermectin intended for horses, which is available for purchase over the counter without the need for prescription,” Ms. Honold said.
A version of the drug for animals is available, but ivermectin is approved by the FDA for human use against diseases caused by parasites.
Ms. Honold said that the FDA didn’t purport to require anyone to do anything or to prohibit anyone from doing anything.
“What about when it said, ‘No, stop it’?” Circuit Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, on the panel that is hearing the appeal, asked. “Why isn’t that a command? If you were in English class, they would say that was a command.”
Ms. Honold described the statements as “merely quips.”
“Can you answer the question, please? Is that a command, ‘Stop it’?” Judge Elrod asked.
“In some contexts, those words could be construed as a command,” Ms. Honold said. “But in this context, where FDA was simply using these words in the context of a quippy tweet meant to share its informational article, those statements do not rise to the level of a command.”
The statements “don’t prohibit doctors from prescribing ivermectin to treat COVID or for any other purpose” Ms. Honold said. She noted that the FDA, along with the statements, said that people should consult their health care providers about COVID-19 treatments and that they could take medicine if it was prescribed by the provider.
“FDA is clearly acknowledging that doctors have the authority to prescribe human ivermectin to treat COVID. So they are not interfering with the authority of doctors to prescribe drugs or to practice medicine,” she said….