POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on whether or not to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis that would ask him to make drugs, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, widely available to residents in hopes of providing what one commissioner calls possible live-saving therapeutics against COVID-19.
8 On Your Side obtained a draft of the letter, written by Commissioner Neil Combee, Friday afternoon. It states, in part, “We are hearing from many of our citizens that larger hospital chains and some pharmacies are refusing to prescribe safe and effective therapeutics like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin… When a citizen is facing a potentially life-threatening case of COVID-19, he or she should receive the ‘right to try’ potentially life-saving therapeutics.”
The letter refers to ivermectin as a “wonder drug” and says without readily available access to alternative treatments, “patients are literally being left to die.” It also praises the governor for setting up monoclonal antibody testing centers as it “is literally saving lives.”
Commissioner Bill Braswell said he is in support of Combee’s letter. He told News Channel 8’s Staci DaSilva he took ivermectin, the prescription for humans, for nine months until he got vaccinated in March.
Federal and Tampa Bay health officials have warned, however, that treatments such as ivermectin are not approved for COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Alfred Aleguas, the managing director of Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, told 8 On Your Side neither form of ivermectin is a proven treatment for COVID-19.
”It’s not going to be effective. It’s not intended to be effective. It won’t prevent or help you with your symptoms,” Aleguas said.
Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey told 8 On Your Side he plans to vote against sending the letter to Gov. DeSantis.
“If they want to do that individually to the governor that’s fine,” he said Friday night. “But I didn’t think its appropriate to use the county commission platform for that message.”
Commissioner Lindsey added, “there’s already enough confusion on this whole issue and this doesn’t shed light on the subject it clouds the subject.”
In a county hit hard by the delta variant surge, Commissioner Lindsey said he is encouraged health department data shows an improving vaccination rate. The latest weekly state report said 61% of eligible Polk County residents 12 years and older have received at least one dose.
“My message is consult with your physician and get the vaccine,” Lindsey said.
The drug, typically meant for treating and preventing parasites in animals, is not an anti-viral medication and has caused people across the nation to be hospitalized after self-treatment, according to the Federal Drug Administration.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried also warned about the drug after a recent spike in poisonings reported across the state.
“The promotion of inappropriate use of this drug is irresponsible, reckless, and dangerous,” Fried said. “There is no public health or scientific support for its use to treat or prevent COVID-19, and there are serious safety concerns when it comes to self-medicating and humans using medications intended for animals. Individuals should look to their medical doctors when it comes to medical treatments – not online quacks.”