A bill that’s cleared a House subcommittee would let Iowa doctors prescribe a medication used to treat parasites as an experimental treatment for Covid patients on a ventilator.

Republican Representative Lee Hein of Monticello said he sponsored the bill after learning two families wanted ivermectin used as a last resort treatment for a critically ill relative, but hospital policies prevented it. Both patients died of Covid.

“I don’t know whether any of these drugs work, but I think at that late stage in the game, once you’re on a ventilator, families ought to have at least a glimmer of hope to try something,” Hein said.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized ivermectin tablets as treatment for worms in humans, but the agency says “currently available data” does not indicate ivermectin is effective in treating or preventing Covid.

Representative Ann Meyer, a Republican from Fort Dodge who’s a nurse, said ivermectin “has been around…for many years” and the bill would allow what’s called “off-label” use of the drug for Covid patients on life support.

“I think that we should give patients the right to try,” Meyer said.

Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, observed that a number of medical groups sent lobbyists to merely monitor subcommittee discussion of the bill.

“I’m curious about that,” Mascher said during the meeting. “There’s a lot of folks in the room…and I have heard no one in support of the bill.”

Mascher opposed the bill in subcommittee, but with the support of Meyer and another Republican on the panel, the legislation is now eligible for debate in a House Committee.