An Ohio judge on Monday reversed a previous decision requiring a hospital to administer ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug primarily used as a veterinary dewormer, to a patient as a treatment for Covid-19.
The judge, Michael A. Oster Jr., wrote that “there is no doubt that the medical and scientific communities do not support the use of ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19” and that the plaintiff had not provided convincing evidence to show that it was effective.
The Food and Drug Administration has warned Covid-19 patients about taking ivermectin, which has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus. Concentrated doses intended for horses and other large livestock can be toxic to humans, the agency said.
However, the drug has become a hot topic among conservative talk show hosts. Doctors and toxicologists have raised the alarm about people getting ivermectin from feed centers and a spate of calls to poison centers about overdoses and side effects of the drug.
The Ohio lawsuit was filed by Julie Smith, who was acting as guardian for her husband, Jeffrey Smith. Another judge last month granted a 14-day ban 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 had been given ivermectin for 13 days before the warrant was issued, and that he believed the drug had saved his life.
“In the four days before the hearing, the ventilator setting could be reduced to 50 percent,” said Mr Lorigo. “On the Friday after the hearing, the doctors spoke to Julie about removing” her husband from the ventilator, he said.
A spokeswoman for West Chester Hospital, 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 careful consideration of the judge and for the judicial process in this case.”
Mr Smith, 51, tested positive for the virus on July 9 and was admitted to the intensive care unit at West Chester Hospital the following week, according to court documents. Mr. Smith’s condition deteriorated. On August 1, he was sedated, intubated and placed on a ventilator.
Ivermectin was introduced as a veterinary drug 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 are authorized to treat head lice and skin conditions like rosacea, the FDA said.
It is not approved to treat or prevent Covid-19. It was prescribed by the doctor of Mr. Smith, who has no privileges at West Chester Hospital, and Mr. Smith did not see before approving the treatment, court records show.
“While the court sympathizes with the plaintiff and understands the idea of wanting to do something to help her loved one, public policy should and will not support a doctor trying ‘any’ form of treatment on humans,” Judge Oster wrote. . “On the contrary, government policies support the safe and effective development of drugs and medical practices.”
At a hearing last week, Mr. Smith’s doctor testified that he “appears to be doing better” since he was given ivermectin. But the doctor said he wasn’t sure whether Mr. Smith’s continued use of the drug would be beneficial, court records show. Mrs. Smith testified that she believed the drug worked.
In recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA and other agencies have warned against using ivermectin to treat Covid-19, especially the more potent formulations for animals.
An overdose can lead to visual hallucinations, seizures and “an altered mental state,” the CDC said, adding that ivermectin products used in animals or to treat human skin should not be swallowed.
None of that has stopped some conservative radio hosts and Facebook and Reddit users from touting ivermectin as a potential Covid cure, driving demand soaring in recent months.
After sharing last week that he tested positive for the virus, podcast host Joe Rogan said in an Instagram video that he had “thrown down the sink on all kinds of drugs,” including ivermectin. Phil Valentine, a conservative talk show host, died in August after being hospitalized with Covid-19. He had told audience that in addition to vitamin D, he had also found a doctor who would prescribe ivermectin.
While some patients turned to pet stores to obtain veterinary formulations of the drug, the National Poison Data System recorded that, from July to August, cases of ivermectin exposure more than tripled, to 459 out of 133.
Pharmacists also reported problems replenishing the drug, as prescriptions rose to 88,000 in recent weeks from a prepandemic weekly average of 3,600, according to the FDA.