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House panel adopts COVID 'right-to-try' bill

Photo of a COVID-19 molecule

The state House Health Policy Committee has approved a bill to allow people to try experimental COVID-19 treatments.

Michigan already has a “right-to-try” law that allows people facing serious illnesses to turn to experimental remedies with a doctor’s approval.

But this bill is different in that it specifically names COVID as a covered illness as long as the treatment has cleared the initial stage of an Food and Drug Administration approval process, says Republican Representative Mary Whiteford who sponsored the measure.

“So, it’s very clear. It’s got to be safe to start with. It just hasn’t advanced in clinical studies to address COVID, specifically,” said Whiteford.

But the bill is opposed by some Democrats, who argue that’s beside the point.

Democratic Representative Laurie Pohutsky said the bill can still be used to provide cover for those who want to prescribe or take questionable treatments such as Ivermectin, which is approved to treat parasitic infections, or hydroxychloroquine, which is an approved anti-malaria drug.

Neither is approved to treat COVID.

“So, a drug can be FDA-approved for something but still not be suitable to treat something else,” said Pohutsky.

She also said the bill appears to be an effort to rationalize the use of a controversial treatments.

“The 'right-to-try' act doesn’t preclude any particular diseases,” Pohutsky said, “So, there’s no reason to specifically name one other than to purposefully feed into a narrative about that illness.”

The bill now goes to the House floor.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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