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Rep. Andy Harris, a doctor, says he’s prescribed ivermectin as a covid-19 treatment

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) speaks during a news conference with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill on Dec. 3, 2020. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a practicing anesthesiologist, said he has prescribed ivermectin, a medication typically used to treat parasites in livestock and humans, as a covid-19 treatment, and he lashed out at pharmacies for not making the drug readily available, according to a recent radio interview.

Harris made the comments during a call-in radio program that he and his wife, Nicole, co-hosted last month on WCBM, an AM radio station in the Baltimore area.

“I wrote a prescription for ivermectin, I guess it’s now three weeks ago, four weeks ago, and yeah, couldn’t find a pharmacy to fill it,” he said on the “Casey & Company” show Sept. 17. “It’s gotten bad. . . . The pharmacists are just refusing to fill it.”

Harris made the comments in response to a call from “Ronnie,” a 63-year-old man who said he and his 56-year-old wife had opted not to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Instead of taking any shots, the caller told Harris, he was using a checklist from America’s Frontline Doctors, a right-wing group founded in 2020 to speak out against the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus. The group has promoted the deworming drug as a treatment for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Good idea,” Harris interjected.

Ronnie said that he wanted to use ivermectin a couple of times a week to boost his immune system but that his doctor objected to the use of the deworming drug.

“She’s on board with everything else, but not that,” he said. Ronnie, who said his aunt died of covid-19 complications early in the pandemic, asked whether he should try to find another doctor who was “on board” with using ivermectin.

“You can go all the doctor-shopping you want; I don’t think you’re going to find a pharmacist to fill the prescription. That’s the problem,” Harris said.

The congressman went on to say that the national pharmacy organizations are “saying pharmacies shouldn’t do it. It’s ridiculous.”

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved ivermectin to treat or prevent covid-19 and has warned people away from using the drug. In August — the same month Harris prescribed the drug — the FDA declared on social media: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”

Last month, the American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released a statement strongly opposing the ordering, prescribing or dispensing of ivermectin to prevent or treat covid-19 outside of a clinical trial.

Harris, through his office, declined a request for comment about his radio-show remarks.

Harris practiced at Johns Hopkins Hospital for nearly three decades. According to his biography, he now works part time at Memorial Hospital, also known as the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Trena Williamson, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said Harris is not employed by the hospital system, but is a member of an independent physician group that provides anesthesia and other medical services to the hospital.

Asked what hospital officials think of a doctor who prescribes ivermectin for covid-19 and works at their facility, she wrote in an emailed statement: “Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications.”

It isn’t the first time that Harris has said people should be able to use an unproven treatment for covid-19. Last year, Harris said during a town hall that people “should be able to go to the grocery store and get hydroxychloroquine” if their physician prescribed it, a month after the FDA revoked emergency use authorization of the drug as a covid-19 treatment, saying the risks of using it far outweighed the potential benefits. But in that case Harris did not specifically endorse the drug or encourage people to take it, saying the “jury is still out” on its effectiveness.

Earlier this year, Harris was outspoken in support of coronavirus vaccines, even appearing at community centers to administer shots himself. But he subsequently encouraged parents not to allow their children to be vaccinated, at least not until the vaccines received full FDA approval for children.

He has been vocal in opposing vaccine and mask mandates, and wrote letters to the University System of Maryland and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) earlier this year asking them to suspend vaccine mandates on campuses, citing concerns about exceedingly rare side effects associated with Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Federal health officials and scientists have said the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risks of side effects, myocarditis, and that people are more at risk of developing myocarditis from covid-19 than from being vaccinated.

During the radio show, Harris spent much of the time railing against both mask mandates — at one point questioning “whether masks do anything” — and vaccine mandates.

“The only thing I’m worried about is because of the media push and all of the hype about covid is that the majority of Americans actually agree with these mandates,” he said of vaccine requirements. “What are we, a bunch of lemmings?”

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