In a social media post on Monday, the president of the Texas Medical Board (TMB) claimed that the TMB has already clarified that physicians in the Lone Star State are free to treat COVID-19 in the manner they see fit, including with hydroxychloroquine.
“THE TEXAS MEDICAL BOARD HAS ALREADY MADE THIS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR!” said Dr. Sherif Zaafran emphatically on Twitter.
“The TMB does not sanction or prevent physicians for the use of Hydroxychloroquine. Physicians can prescribe whatever they feel is appropriate. We’ve already released a press release stating this weeks ago!”
Zaafran was responding to a letter from Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), in which Hall decried the TMB for trying to intimidate doctors who use treatments like hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.
“[W]hy is the Texas Medical Board (TMB) continuing to issue slightly veiled threats to Texas doctors that should they be so bold as to attempt to save a COVID-19 patient’s life or reduce their suffering that the TMB will descend upon them with the severest possible punishment?” Hall asked.
In his letter, Hall criticized the TMB for allegedly targeting doctors who seek to use off-label treatments to improve their patients’ conditions, attributing many coronavirus-related deaths to “bureaucratic roadblocks.”
Zaafran’s comments appear to refer to a press release issued by the TMB stating that physicians could face disciplinary action for falsely advertising a cure for COVID-19.
While the release does state that medical doctors and their patients “have a right to decide what treatments may be used for COVID-19,” the TMB goes on to say that they will “investigate complaints for false, misleading or deceptive advertising, which could include for assuring a permanent cure for an incurable disease.”
Zaafran has characterized the TMB as a “complaint driven agency.”
Dr. Richard Urso, a practicing ophthalmologist who graduated from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in 1988, said during a recent forum with Hall that doctors are facing potential retribution for taking care of their patients.
“I’ve had this fear of reprisal because I’ve been reported to the [Texas Medical Board],” Urso said.
“I can’t worry about the bureaucrats because my patients are dying today. I don’t care if the board agrees or disagrees with me, and [I say that] as a practitioner seeing close to fifty patients a day and a lot of my patients with COVID who can’t get treated by other doctors are coming back to me to talk to me about it.”
Hydroxychloroquine has not been given governmental endorsement for treating COVID-19 but is sometimes used off-label by physicians, meaning they apply their professional judgment to use a drug for a certain illness even if it’s officially approved for a different purpose.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.