An Ohio judge overturned an earlier ruling on Monday requiring a hospital to administer ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug primarily used as a veterinary de-wormer, to a patient to treat Covid-19.
The judge, Michael A. Oster Jr., wrote that “there is no doubt that the medical and scientific community does not support the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19” and that the plaintiff has not presented any convincing evidence to show that it was effective.
The Food and Drug Administration has warned Covid-19 patients against taking ivermectin, which has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus. Concentrated doses intended for horses and other large animals can be toxic to humans, the agency said.
However, the drug has become a popular topic among conservative talk show hosts. Doctors and toxicologists have warned that people are getting ivermectin from livestock supply centers and an increase in calls to poison centers about overdoses and side effects of the drug.
The Ohio lawsuit was brought by Julie Smith, who acted as guardian for her husband, Jeffrey Smith. Another judge issued a 14-day restraining order last month and ordered West Chester Hospital north of Cincinnati to administer the drug to Mr Smith, who was being treated there for Covid-19.
Ralph Lorigo, an attorney representing Ms. Smith, said in a statement Tuesday that Mr. Smith was given ivermectin for 13 days prior to the injunction being issued and that he believed the drug saved his life.
“In the four days leading up to the hearing, the ventilation setting was reduced to 50 percent,” said Lorigo. “On the Friday after the hearing, doctors spoke to Julie about removing” her husband from the ventilator, he said.
A West Chester Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Martin welcomed Judge Oster’s decision.
“We do not believe that hospitals or clinicians should be instructed to administer drugs and / or therapies, especially unproven drugs and / or therapies, against medical advice,” Ms. Martin said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are grateful for the judge’s careful consideration and for the judicial process in this matter.”
Mr Smith, 51, tested positive for the virus on July 9 and was admitted to intensive care at West Chester Hospital the following week, according to court documents. Mr. Smith’s condition was deteriorating. On August 1, he was sedated, intubated, and put on a ventilator.
Ivermectin was introduced as a veterinary medicine in the late 1970s. It has since been approved for human use in tablet form to treat some types of parasitic worms, and topical formulations have been approved for treating head lice and skin conditions like rosacea, the FDA said.
It is not approved for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19. It was prescribed by Mr. Smith’s doctor, who has no privileges at West Chester Hospital and who did not see Mr. Smith until treatment was approved, as court records show.
“Although the court sympathizes with the plaintiff and understands the idea of wanting to do whatever it takes to help her loved one, public policy should and will not support allowing a doctor to try ‘any’ type of treatment on people” said Judge Oster wrote. “Instead, public policy supports the safe and effective development of medicines and medical practices.”
At a hearing last week, Mr. Smith’s doctor testified that he “appears” to be better since he was given ivermectin. But the doctor said he was not sure whether Mr. Smith’s continued use of the drug would be of benefit, according to the court records. Ms. Smith testified that she believed the drug would work.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA and other agencies have warned in the past few weeks against the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19, especially the more effective formulations for animals.
An overdose could lead to visual hallucinations, seizures, and “an altered state of mind,” the CDC said, adding that ivermectin products used on animals or to treat human skin should not be swallowed.
None of this has stopped some conservative radio hosts and Facebook and Reddit users from touting ivermectin as a potential Covid cure, which has spurred demand in recent months.
After announcing last week that he had tested positive for the virus, podcast host Joe Rogan said on an Instagram video that he “threw the kitchen sink on all kinds of medication,” including ivermectin. Phil Valentine, a Conservative talk show host, died in August after being hospitalized with Covid-19. He had told the audience that in addition to taking vitamin D, he had found a doctor who would prescribe ivermectin for him.
When some patients turned to pet supply stores for veterinary formulations of the drug, the National Poison Data System recorded that ivermectin exposure cases more than tripled from 133 to 459 from July to August.
Pharmacists have also reported difficulty replenishing the drug as prescriptions have risen from a prepandemic weekly average of 3,600 to 88,000 in recent weeks, according to the FDA