Prescription drugs sit on a pharmacist’s counter. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.)
A Butler County judge ruled in favor of a woman last week who sought to force a hospital to administer Ivermectin — an animal dewormer that federal regulators have warned against using in COVID-19 patients — to her husband after several weeks in the ICU with the disease.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Gregory Howard ordered West Chester Hospital, part of the University of Cincinnati network, to treat Jeffrey Smith, 51, with Ivermectin. The order, filed Aug. 23, compels the hospital to provide Smith with 30mg of Ivermectin daily for three weeks.
The drug was originally developed to deworm livestock animals before doctors began using it against parasitic diseases among humans. Several researchers won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for establishing its efficacy in humans. It’s used to treat head lice, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and others.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned Americans against the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, a viral disease. It’s unproven as a treatment, they say, and large doses of it can be dangerous and cause serious harm. A review of available literature conducted earlier this month by the journal Nature found there’s no certainty in the available data on potential benefits of Ivermectin.
The drug has grown in popularity among conservatives, fueled by endorsements from allies of former President Donald Trump like U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. or Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. The CDC warned reports of poisoning related to use of Ivermectin have increased threefold this year, spiking in July.
Julie Smith filed the lawsuit on behalf of her husband of 24 years. He tested positive for COVID-19 July 9, was hospitalized and admitted to the ICU July 15, and was sedated and intubated and placed on a ventilator Aug. 1. He later developed a secondary infection he’s still wrestling with as of Aug. 23, court records say.
The lawsuit doesn’t mention whether Jeffrey Smith is vaccinated against COVID-19. However, overwhelming majorities of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated — data from the Ohio Department of Health shows of roughly 21,000 Ohioans hospitalized with COVID-19 since Jan. 1, only about 500 were vaccinated.
Julie Smith found Ivermectin on her own and connected with Dr. Fred Wagshul, an Ohio physician who her lawsuit identifies as “one of the foremost experts on using Ivermectin in treating COVID-19.” He prescribed the drug, and the hospital refused to administer it.
A hospital spokeswoman said she can’t comment on litigation and federal patient privacy laws prevent her from commenting on any specifics of patient care.
Smith is represented by New York attorney Ralph Lorigo, the chairman of New York’s Erie County Conservative Party, who has successfully filed one similar case against a Chicago area hospital and two more in Buffalo. He did not respond to an email or phone call.
The Ohio lawsuit makes reference to the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, a nonprofit of which Wagshul is listed as a founding physician. The organization touts Ivermectin as both a preventative and treatment for COVID-19. Its “How To Get Ivermectin” section includes prices and locations of pharmacies that will supply it, from Afghanistan to Fort Lauderdale to Pennsylvania to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In an interview, Wagshul said the science behind Ivermectin’s use in COVID-19 patients is “irrefutable.” The CDC and FDA engaged in a “conspiracy,” he said, to block its use to protect the FDA’s emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines. He said the mainstream media and social media companies have been engaging in “censorship” on Ivermectin’s merits, and that the U.S. government’s refusal to acknowledge its benefits amounts to genocide.
“If we were a country looking at another country allowing those [COVID-19] deaths daily … we would have been screaming, ‘Genocide!’” he said.
Wagshul said he had no financial interest in the sale of Ivermectin.
Dr. Leanne Chrisman-Khawam, a physician and professor at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, called the FLCCCA “snake oil salesmen.” She reviewed the association’s research on the drug’s uses and said there are some serious problems with its cited studies: many of them don’t show positive results, and those that do bear design flaws like small control groups, unaccounted for variables, non-blinded studies, not accounting for mitigations like vaccines and masking practices, and others.
“Based on evidence-based medicine and my read on this large number of small studies, I would find this very suspect, even the positive outcomes,” she said.
Several state authorities declined to comment on the matter. Cameron McNamee, a spokesman for the state Board of Pharmacy, referred inquiries to the state Medical Board, the attorney general, and the Ohio Hospital Association.
A spokesman for the state Medical Board, which licenses physicians, said its jurisdiction is over the practice of doctors and how they uphold standards of care — not lawsuits.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Dave Yost declined comment and referred inquiries to the Board of Pharmacy and Veterinary Board.
An Ohio Hospital Association spokesman called the lawsuit “interesting” but said he’d need to confer with his legal team before commenting.
It’s unclear why the hospital didn’t mount any defense under a new law passed in the state budget this summer that grants health care providers the “freedom to decline to perform” any service which violates their “conscience,” as informed by moral, ethical or religious beliefs.
No attorney information for West Chester Hospital was available on the court docket as of Friday afternoon.
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