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Forced use of horse dewormer on COVID patient overturned by Ohio judge


Tablets of ivermectin.
Enlarge / Tablets of ivermectin.

An Ohio judge has overturned an order by one of his colleagues that required a Cincinnati hospital to give the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to a critically ill COVID-19 patient.

The order to force the use of ivermectin—dubbed “unethical” and “extraordinarily dangerous” by experts— was the result of a lawsuit brought by the patient’s wife, Julie Smith, on August 20.

In a September 6 ruling overturning the order to use ivermectin, Butler County Judge Michael Oster Jr. wrote, “While this court is sympathetic to the Plaintiff and understands the idea of wanting to do anything to help her loved one, public policy should not and does not support allowing a physician to try ‘any’ type of treatment on human beings.”

Ivermectin is used as a deworming drug in animals, such as horses and cattle. At lower concentrations, it is used to treat parasitic infections in people. Ivermectin is not proven to treat or prevent COVID-19, and its use against the viral infection comes with risks of serious side effects and potentially life-threatening overdoses. Its use is opposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association, the American Society for Health System Pharmacists, and even the drug’s maker, Merck, among others.

Dubious prescription

Nevertheless, false information about ivermectin has spread rampantly during the latest surge of COVID-19 in the US, leading to a recent 24-fold rise in ivermectin prescriptions and even use of veterinary forms of the drug. This, in turn, has resulted in a five-fold rise in calls to poison control centers nationwide.

Julie Smith filed her lawsuit to use ivermectin out of desperation to save her critically ill 51-year-old husband, Jeffrey Smith. The father of three had tested positive for COVID-19 on July 9 and was admitted to an intensive care unit in Cincinnati’s West Chester Hospital on July 15, according to Julie Smith’s testimony. Jeffrey Smith’s condition continued to worsen, and he was sedated, intubated, and placed on a ventilator on August 1.

As her husband’s condition worsened even further in the following weeks, Julie Smith began looking into alternative treatments on her own and came across ivermectin. While the physicians treating Jeffrey opposed the use of the drug, Julie Smith connected with Dr. Fred Wagshul, who runs an ivermectin-promoting group called Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Dr. Wagshul is not board certified in any specialty and does not have privileges at West Chester or any other hospital.

On August 20, Dr. Wagshul prescribed ivermectin to Jeffrey Smith without seeing Smith or talking with his treating physicians. The outside prescription kicked off the legal dispute. Just three days later, Butler County Judge J. Gregory Howard granted an emergency order immediately forcing the hospital to comply with Wagshul’s prescription, which has since been honored for 13 days.

In his reversal, Judge Oster seemed to suggest that Judge Howard’s order was born out of sympathy for the Smiths rather than the law. “As a judge, the present case invites allowing emotion to steer one towards judicial activism,” he wrote. “But Judges are not doctors or nurses. We have gavels, not needles, vaccines, or other medicines.”

Experimental

After reviewing the case and evidence, Judge Oster determined that “there can be no doubt that the medical and scientific communities do not support the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.”

In addition to the plethora of medical opposition to the use of ivermectin for COVID-19, Judge Oster also cited testimony from Dr. Wagshul himself, who was wishy-washy on ivermectin’s effects. When asked directly if continuing to give Jeffrey Smith ivermectin would benefit Smith, Wagshul responded, “I honestly don’t know.”

In court, Jeffrey Smith’s treating physician, Dr. Daniel Tanase, disputed any suggestion that ivermectin helped Smith, according to the Ohio Capital Journal.

Still, Julie Smith is convinced that ivermectin has been beneficial. Jeffrey Smith’s condition has improved in recent days, and according to Julie Smith, doctors believe he may soon be weaned from the ventilator. Ralph Lorigo, an attorney representing Smith, told the Capital Journal that Smith does not plan to appeal Judge Oster’s ruling. “Julie has won this case; I don’t care what this judge says,” Lorigo said in an interview. “We are believers he’s going to survive because of ivermectin.”

The Capital Journal also noted that Julie Smith testified that neither she nor her husband had been vaccinated against COVID-19 because she believed the vaccine was “experimental.”

“We didn’t feel confident it had been out long enough,” Julie Smith said during a hearing Thursday.

In a statement Monday, the Ohio Hospital Association applauded Judge Oster for overturning the order to use ivermectin and called for an end to use of the drug against COVID-19.

“OHA believes it is an extraordinarily dangerous precedent for judges to practice medicine and order unproven medical treatments over the objections of highly trained clinicians and against all standards established by the medical community,” the statement read. “The facts of this case are heartbreaking, and all parties want the patient to improve, but Judge Oster properly weighed the evidence and reached an objective legal decision despite the emotion the case evokes.”



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