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SC Attorney General Declares ‘Off-Label’ Treatments Cleared for COVID

February 11, 2022 by Dan McCue

COLUMBIA, S.C. —  South Carolina doctors have the authority to prescribe “off-label” treatments for COVID-19 so long as their patients consent, the state’s attorney general said in a written opinion on Friday.

Attorney General Alan Wilson issued the opinion at the request of Sen. Shane Martin, R-S.C., and Rep. Bill Taylor, R-S.C., who asked whether South Carolina law allows doctors to prescribe ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine or other off-label drugs for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. 

“Our doctors, as well as their patients, need to know that doctors have the right to make important medical decisions, as long as they have the informed consent of their patients,” Wilson said in a written statement. 

“In fighting COVID, the doctor should be given the broadest possible leeway,” he said.

The opinion states that it is beyond the expertise of the attorney general’s office to comment on whether “off-label” medications are appropriate for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. 

But it goes on to say that South Carolina “state law strongly protects the medical judgment of the physician in this circumstance. It is clear that an attending physician possesses especially broad discretion to prescribe what he or she deems the appropriate medication in a given situation.”

The opinion does not include a determination of the propriety of a prescription for ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine because that’s a decision for the treating physician to make.

“Nevertheless, we can point out, and fully support, the general law protecting the physician’s decision, particularly if informed consent is obtained.”

The opinion sidesteps the issue of whether doctors who actually work in hospitals have the same latitude in treating COVID-19 patients with off-label medications, saying that issue is “a matter of contract law.”

The opinion follows a vote by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2021 that granted limited immunity to physicians who prescribe off-label drugs for COVID-19.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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