PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State lawmakers will argue next week whether medical practitioners in South Dakota can dispense ivermectin to COVID-19 patients with or without a prior prescription.

A legislative panel wants the issue debated by the state House of Representatives. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-6 Thursday to endorse HB 1267.

Prime sponsor is Representative Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City. His proposal would allow practitioners to dispose ivermectin for general use. His lead witnesses Thursday were a Rapid City couple, Kevin and Stephanie Hunter.

Kevin Hunter spent four months in the hospital last year with COVID-19 and now relies on bottled oxygen. He told lawmakers he received five treatments of remdesivir at the hospital and “against my wishes” spent 59 days on a ventilator.

“I would have appreciated having ivermectin available to me and the other remedies to have avoided my hospital stay. When I got to the hospital on August eighteenth, I was put on two liters of oxygen. I could have been just sent home. I’m on two liters of oxygen right now, and I’m with my family,” he said.

Stephanie Hunter compared her husband’s healthcare cost of more than $3 million to countries such as Japan, Mexico and Peru that, she said, use ivermectin to counter COVID-19 at two cents a dose. “So the disparity is just outrageous,” she said.

She said she asked doctors at the hospital for ivermectin. “And I was told over and over again, ‘If I give this to you, I will lose my license, I will be fired,'” she said.

She added, “It’s death by policy here.”

South Dakota’s medical community lined up against the bill.

Tim Rave, executive director for the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, said ivermectin works but at dangerously high levels.

“The therapeutic dose for ivermectin in COVID-2 according to the NIH study is a hundred times the dose a human should have. At that level it destroys your liver and kidneys. So it will destroy the COVID cell but it will also destroy your liver and kidneys,” he said. He added, “We don’t know that it works in a therapeutic level safe for human beings on COVID-2.”

Mitch Rave, representing Sanford Health, spoke against the bill too.

“But at Sanford Health, there’s no conspiracy theory that we’re not letting doctors prescribe this today. They can do it if they feel it’s the right pathway to care for a patient. Doctors also take an oath to do no harm. You heard in testimony that if you take enough of this, it will do harm to your body. It can,” he said.

Justin Bell, representing the South Dakota State Medical Association, didn’t want the bill passed either.

“The National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and Merck, the manufacturer of the drug, the company that actually manufactures this drug, all say there’s insufficient evidence to support the use of to treat COVID-19. If this was about profit motive, as the proponents were discussing here, certainly the company that was making the drug would not be advising the same,” he said.

The state Department of Health didn’t take a position on either side during the hearing. Afterward, Governor Kristi Noem told KELOLAND News at her weekly news conference that ivermectin is a drug that typically requires a prescription but there are many prescriptions for uses including COVID-19 treatment that aren’t federally approved.

“I believe it is a medical drug that went through the FDA approval process. It requires a prescription and I’ve never questioned the fact that that prescription could be necessary,” Noem said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed guidance for consumers on uses for ivermectin.

The guidance specifically says, “Ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. In addition, some topical forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea.”

The guidance also is specific regarding ivermectin and COVID-19. It says:

“The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in people or animals. Ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications.

“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. It is not okay. 

“Even the levels of ivermectin for approved human uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners. You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death.”