FEB 11, 2022

Attorney General Alan Wilson issues opinion on the legality of doctors prescribing alternative drugs to treat COVID-19

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – Attorney General Alan Wilson today released an opinion saying South Carolina doctors do have the authority to prescribe “off-label” drugs to treat 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. In fighting COVID, the doctor should be given the broadest possible leeway,” Attorney General Wilson said.

Sen. Shane Martin and Rep. Bill Taylor requested the opinion, asking whether South Carolina law allows doctors to prescribe Ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine or other off-label drugs for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. The opinion concludes that doctors do have the authority to provide “off-label” medications in general, as long as they have the informed consent of their patients.

The opinion says it is beyond the office’s expertise to comment on whether “off-label” medications are appropriate for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 specifically. However, in 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.”

While 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.”

It is also important to note that the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution in 2021 providing limited immunity to physicians who prescribe off-label drugs for COVID-19.

The opinion does not address the contractual relationship between doctors and the hospitals they work for if hospitals have policies prohibiting the prescribing of “off-label” medications. That is a matter of contract law.

You can read the opinion here.

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