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In Mississippi, doctors who spread misinformation about COVID could lose their license

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Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 1:32 PM EDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Strong words from the board charged with holding doctors accountable in Mississippi: if you put out misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, your license could be in jeopardy.

The move by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure comes as misinformation regarding the virus and vaccine aren’t just spreading on social media, but also in some doctors’ offices across the country.

“I’ve seen many comments about Dr. Dobbs and some about me, saying that we’re just motivated by greed and money and power,” said Dr. Mark Horne, who served as past president of the state’s medical association.

Horne isn’t immune to the misinformation perpetuated in recent months regarding COVID-19, but he has a real problem when those opinions come from folks with lab coats and medical licenses.

“It’s offensive to me to look at the last month and know that over 1,000 Mississippians died in August, from COVID-19 related complications, and that the vast majority of those people did not need to die,” Horne said. “I find that it’s just deeply painful.”

Four days ago, MSBML published a policy on misinformation, telling physicians across the state that if they generate and spread vaccine misinformation, they’re risking disciplinary action which could include suspending or revoking their license to practice medicine.

The board’s policy states doctors licensed in Mississippi have an ethical obligation to ensure the medical information they provide is accurate and whether physicians recognize it or not, they possess a high degree of public trust because of their training and expertise, which gives them a powerful platform.

“The job of the Board of Medical Licensure is to act to protect the people of Mississippi, and so in doing that, if they find that I am doing things that are harmful to the people of Mississippi and injuring them, then they have the the duty to discipline me,” Horne said. “And that can include taking my license.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that doctors who prescribe alternative treatments -- like ivermectin -- could be at risk for the same disciplinary action, Horne said.

Off-label prescribing is legal in Mississippi.

“Providers who say ‘I want to provide some ivermectin, and I’m going to refer my patient for monoclonal antibody therapy,’ if indicated, you know, if that’s what the patient wants and the provider wants, that’s not the problem,” Horne said. “Now, I think if it was if a provider or physician [who] said, ‘I want you to go to the feed store, and get ivermectin they’ve got for horses,’ that would be a real problem.”

The state’s medical board can only investigate once a complaint is filed.

If you know a doctor who’s spreading misinformation, you can file a complaint with the agency by calling 601-987-3079.

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