News about Andy Harris’ activities has been sparse in recent months because he does not do much. Most of us think we know him. Harris is an intrepid Trumpian right-wing anesthesiologist who is still not ready to acknowledge the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Did you hear he treated a COVID-19 patient with a drug best known for deworming horses?
Although Dr. Harris is the wrong representative for the Eastern Shore in Congress, I respected his Johns Hopkins medical degree. That ended last week when I read in the Spy and Washington Post that Harris prescribed ivermectin to a patient who has refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine. My reaction was shock. The FDA has specifically warned against this misuse of the drug. The use was not part of a clinical trial, the one use of ivermectin for COVID-19 approved by the FDA and AMA.
Why is an anesthesiologist prescribing ivermectin to a patient? Did Harris, a member of Congress, familiarize himself with the FDA’s warning and, more importantly, have a full understanding of the warning before writing the prescription? Isn’t serving in Congress supposed to be a full-time job? Prescribing ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 by itself may be medical malpractice. Let’s hope that the patient who sought Dr. Harris out to get the prescription doesn’t die from it. If he does, Harris should be held accountable.
Prescribing a medicine not recommended by the FDA or the American Medical Association and virtually all competent doctors is bad enough, but Dr. Harris went on a WCBM radio show on September 17 to share the news with the public. Harris told Casey & Company, “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.”
Dr. Harris might have found the drug at one of the veterinary clinics in our area. Given the number of horses and cows on the Eastern Shore with worms, they would have the drug. It is doubtful, however, that they would be so irresponsible to fill the prescription if they knew that Dr. Harris’ patient walked on two feet, not four.
What is the FDA warning relating to the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID? The FDA website notes: “There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. It is not okay. Even the levels of ivermectin for approved human uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners. You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death.”
Dr. Harris was irresponsible in discussing ivermectin on the radio. Given his status as a member of Congress, listeners might assume that he knew what he was doing. But why did he choose to discuss the drug on the radio? In so doing, Harris has contributed to misinformation referenced by the FDA. He may have unintentionally encouraged people to seek out ivermectin, including the versions of the drug specifically formulated for livestock, and take it.
Should Congress censure Dr. Harris for his actions (both prescribing the drug and talking about it recklessly on the radio)? Probably not. It is not illegal for doctors, even ones without an expertise in infectious diseases, to prescribe it. Far better would it be for the medical profession itself to investigate what Harris did and whether disciplinary measures should be taken.
As voters on the Eastern Shore, we have yet another reason to replace Dr. Harris as the representative of the First District. Once again, he has demonstrated remarkably bad judgment.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and occasionally, golden doodles.
Correction (10-28-21): In a previous version of this commentary, it was incorrectly stated that Congressman Harris was formally associated UMM Regional Shore Health. Dr. Harris, in fact, works part-time for a third-party anesthesiologist group. The Spy regrets the error.