WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of doctors at a U.S. Senate hearing chaired by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, touted unproven alternative treatments to COVID-19 on Tuesday, even as medical experts derided the testimony and Democrats largely skipped the proceeding.
Johnson and the witnesses he called accused the medical establishment and health agencies of failing to explore and promote the use of relatively inexpensive drugs previously approved for other uses as early interventions against the coronavirus.
“They’re safe and they’re cheap and they just might be incredibly effective,” said Johnson, who claimed that “tens of thousands of people have lost their lives” because government agencies have focused on expensive “silver bullet” solutions instead of medications already in use for other diseases.
Dr. Pierre Kory, a pulmonary specialist at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, touted Ivermectin as a “wonder drug.” It is used to treat parasitic infections, but the National Institutes of Health has recommended against using it for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials.
“We are telling the world this is the solution to COVID-19,” Kory said.
Others cited hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump but that the Food and Drug Administration said was ineffective against COVID-19. The FDA revoked its emergency use authorization for the drug as a COVID-19 treatment this summer, saying the risks of taking it could outweigh the benefits.
The hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee drew criticism from doctors and Democrats.
“We are facing a dangerous barrage of misinformation that ignores evidence and dismisses the scientific process, undermining our national response and belief in science,” said a group of medical and scientific experts in advance of the hearing.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the panel, said the hearing was “playing politics with public health.” Peters appeared at the hearing to read his opening statement and then declined to participate further.
Besides Johnson, only two other senators, both Republicans, asked questions of the witnesses.
Johnson’s witnesses denied being anti-vaccines or anti-science, claiming instead that the government and medical establishment were neglecting alternative and cheaper therapies and early interventions.
Dr. Ramin Oskoui, a cardiologist at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., said practicing physicians were being shamed for using alternative therapies, calling it “medical McCarthyism.”
Johnson said the reaction to his hearings was evidence of the closemindedness of the news media, Democrats, the medical establishment and government health agencies.
“It amazes me how these hearings have been attacked,” said Johnson, whose chairmanship of the Senate’s homeland security committee will end in January.
Johnson also repeated his claims that the government overreacted to the pandemic, hurting the economy.