JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed seven bills into law on Tuesday. Tucked inside one of those bills is a provision protecting doctors who prescribed unproven COVID-19 drugs wrongly believed to be treatments or cures for the virus.

The amendment was tacked onto a bill (HB 2194), which modifies existing provisions on professional licensing by exempting military employees and contractors from participating in a federal training program. The bill addresses other statutes relating to the state dental board and the physical therapists licensing exam, among other things.

State Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) added the COVID drug provision because doctors he spoke with were concerned doctors might lose their medical licenses for prescribing hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. The measure also prohibits pharmacists from questioning doctors who prescribed the drugs or from contacting a patient about their efficacy.

The bill goes into effect in August.

The text of Brattin’s amendment reads as follows:

PHYSICIAN AND PHARMACIST PRESCRIPTION AND DISPENSATION OF IVERMECTIN AND HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE (Sections 334.100 and 338.055)

This bill prohibits the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts from taking administrative action against a certificate of registration or authority, permit, or license required by this chapter 334 for any person due to the lawful dispensing, distributing, or selling of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use in accordance with prescriber directions.

A pharmacist cannot contact the prescribing physician or the patient to dispute the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use unless the physician or patient inquires of the pharmacist about the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets.

Text from HB 2194

In fall 2020 and spring 2021, some people latched onto the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a way to either prevent contracting COVID-19 or as a means of treatment. However, months of study and analysis from the scientific community proved hydroxychloroquine as an ineffective preventative of COVID-19. The World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health all recommended against its use.

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic discovered and developed by drug manufacturer Merck. It’s been in widespread use for decades. For humans, the drug is a treatment for some parasitic worms, as well as head lice, scabies, river blindness, and rosacea. It’s also used to treat parasites in livestock.

Ivermectin was once heralded as some kind of wonder drug or miracle cure for COVID-19. A research paper in June 2020 claimed that ivermectin suppressed the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, though noted the need for clinical trials. Other researchers noted some successes with the drug as well. This led to the embrace of ivermectin in places like Latin America and India, eager to find a COVID cure or treatment.

One group of doctors and researchers, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, published a paper touting ivermectin. The article was picked for publication by a medical journal in Jan. 2021 and later removed from consideration in March after editors determined the paper did not meet the standard of evidence and discovered the doctors who authored the paper were using the report to push their own treatment programs.

The National Institutes of Health reviewed many of these studies and found limitations, making their conclusions less than definitive.

By May 2022, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that ivermectin “did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of COVID-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of COVID-19.”

The safest and recommended treatments for COVID-19 include remdesivir, molnupiravir, paxlovid, and monoclonal antibody therapy.

In a press release Tuesday, Parson’s office identified all seven bills signed by the governor. However, the press release makes no mention of the amendment detailing hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, as seen in a screengrab taken Wednesday afternoon.