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N.H. pharmacists could dispense ivermectin without a prescription if bill passes

Pharmacists in New Hampshire would be allowed to dispense the antiparasitic drug ivermectin without a prescription under a Republican-sponsored bill passed by a House committee Monday.

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During the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine activists have latched onto ivermectin, though it has not been approved by the FDA as a treatment for COVID-19, nor is there evidence to support that it can treat the virus.

Supporters of the bill said granting broad access to ivermectin, which is available over-the-counter in some countries and also used in veterinary medicine will allow individuals to make medical choices denied to them by the medical establishment.

“We still have patients who don’t know how to find the doctors who will write prescriptions for ivermectin,” said Rep. Leah Cushman, a nurse who represents Weare. “It’s safer than having to go to the farm store.”

The committee’s endorsement of boosting access to Ivermectin came over the criticism of Democrats on the committee.

“I don’t think the legislature should be practicing medicine, which is basically what this is,” said Rep. Gary Woods of Bow, a retired doctor and former president of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

The Ivermectin bill was one of several related to the pandemic voted on by the Republican-led committee.

The committee also endorsed barring the state from enforcing any federal vaccine mandate, a bill written by House Speaker Sherman Packard.

That proposal, which Packard maintains is an issue of state sovereignty and a rejection of “blackmail” from Washington, could complicate life for county nursing homes, which rely on millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding.

Republicans backed the bill as a bloc.

They also united to reject a Democratic proposal to undo a law passed last year enshrining medical freedom when it comes to vaccine mandates.

But not every vote fell along party lines.

The committee unanimously rejected a bill to add the COVID vaccine to the list required to attend public schools.

The panel also voted across party lines to endorse changes to the state’s vaccine registry that supporters hope will incentivize participation while protecting personal privacy.

But tensions surrounding issues related to the pandemic also flared throughout the day. and not simply between lawmakers on different sides of a bill.

During the debate of a proposal aiming to clarify a hospital patient’s right to have visitors, Republicans pushed to tie the policy to hospital licensing.

“I know a lot of people who refuse to go to the hospital, and would prefer to die at home than be denied the opportunity to have their loved ones with them,” said Rep. Erika Layon, a Republican from Derry.

“That is a stunning statement for you to say, that the hospitals have to rebuild their trust,” Paula Minnehan of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, told Layon.

“Hospitals have been taking care of patients for hundreds of years actually,” Minnehan said. “In the last two years they have been under extraordinary stress,” Minnehan added, before abruptly leaving the room.

Later, Rep. Joseph Shapiro, a Keene Democrat, warned colleagues that the GOP’s prioritization of individual rights are pushing state public health policy in a single direction.

“We have tipped the scales in terms of privacy, personal liberty and choice, we are not taking into consideration the greater good for the greater number of people,” Schapiro said.

“Yes, we have a lot of bills, we all notice that,” said Republican Rep. Dennis Acton of Newington. “But these were not just brought out of thin air. They are a response to what we feel is the overplaying of a hand by the medical system.”

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