HONOLULU (AP) — State legislative leaders have called on Hawaii's governor to fire the Maui district health officer for promoting the use of drugs to treat COVID-19 that haven't been approved for this use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Sen. Roz Baker, a Democrat who represents south and west Maui, said Dr. Lorrin Pang was potentially harming the lives of Hawaii's most vulnerable citizens because people will be inclined to believe him because of his position.
“He’s undermining the whole public health message and public trust by going along with these — for lack of a better term — conspiracy theories and bad information,” Baker told The Associated Press on Thursday. “So I think he needs to be canned as soon as possible because he’s a direct threat to my constituents.”
Baker is chairperson of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. Together with the Senate president, House speaker and House and Senate health committee chairs, she sent a letter to the governor on Wednesday asking for Pang's removal.
Pang didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail message left at his Wailuku office.
Gov. David Ige said in a statement that he couldn't comment on personnel matters, but he urged people to “look at the science and listen to credible sources" such as the Hawaii Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Pang supported the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to treat COVID-19, so long as the drugs were administered at the right time and at the right dosage.
“It’s a matter of timing,” Pang told the newspaper. “You give the wrong thing at the wrong time, it is very dangerous.”
Ivermectin is often used in the U.S. to treat or prevent parasites in animals. The FDA has not approved its use to treat or prevent COVID-19 and says it’s not an anti-viral drug. It has approved invermectin tablets at specific doses for parasitic worms. It can also be used topically to treat head lice.
The FDA has approved hydroxychloroquine to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Last year, it revoked emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients after a large clinical trial found it failed to decrease the likelihood of death or accelerate recovery. An FDA safety review later found instances of serious heart rhythm, liver and kidney problems in patients who took the drug for COVID-19.
Pang is co-founder of the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent, which has shared misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine online, the Star-Advertiser reported. However, he told the newspaper he supports the state’s efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations.
“I thought in this day and age, we look at people for what they are, not who they associate with,” Pang said.
His government job includes administering public health programs and acting as the health director's principal public health representative for the district.
The governor, in his statement, called the coalition's actions irresponsible and potentially harmful, and he urged residents to get vaccinated to protect their families and communities.
In remarks about Pang on the Senate floor, Baker mistakenly said the two drugs were not approved for human consumption.
Baker said what she should have said is that the FDA has warned that the use of the drugs to treat COVID-19 can be dangerous and even deadly.
Speaking to the Senate, Baker said she has also asked the Board of Medicine to determine whether it can revoke Pang’s medical license.
She said people “don’t need to be treated by quacks.”