An Ohio judge reversed an order Monday that forced a Cincinnati-area hospital to treat a COVID-19 patient with ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug federal health officials say should not be taken to treat the virus.
“Judges are not doctors or nurses,” Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster Jr. said in his ruling. “We have gavels, not needles, vaccines or other medicines.”
The judge said “there can be no doubt” that health experts do not support ivermectin being used as a treatment against COVID-19. His ruling comes after Butler County Judge Gregory Howard temporarily ordered West Chester Hospital to treat Jeffrey Smith with 30 mg of ivermectin daily for three weeks, McClatchy News reported.
Smith’s wife, Julie Smith, filed an emergency relief order for the use of ivermectin for her husband, who has had COVID-19 since early July, McClatchy News reported. He was on a ventilator for three weeks at the hospital before his wife reached out to Dr. Fred Wagshul, who prescribed ivermectin.
Wagshul is a founder of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, which touts ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have all advised against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials, McClatchy News reported.
The hospital also refused to give Jeffrey Smith the anti-parasitic drug, triggering the lawsuit.
“He is on death’s doorstep,” Smith’s attorney wrote in the lawsuit. “There is no further COVID-19 treatment protocol for the (hospital) to offer to Jeffrey; Ms. Smith does not want to see her husband die, and she is doing everything she can to give him a chance.”
Ivermectin is commonly used for livestock, but is also recommended by the FDA to treat some infections, such as head lice. Mentions of ivermectin by Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have fueled interest in the drug in the past month, according to CNN. The drug has flown off the shelves in many parts of the United States.
The ivermectin initially prescribed to Jeffrey Smith was for human use, but Wagshul prescribed it without meeting him, Oster said. Wagshul is not a doctor at West Chester Hospital.
An attorney for Jeffrey Smith said he was able to receive the drug for 14 days, “during which time his condition did improve,” according to The Washington Post.
But in his ruling, Oster laid out reasons the medical community remains skeptical of using ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
“The court is not determining if ivermectin will ever be effective and useful as a treatment for COVID-19,” Oster Jr. said. “However, based upon the evidence, it has not been shown to be effective at this juncture. The studies that tend to give support to ivermectin have had inconsistent results, limitations to the studies, were open-label studies, were of low quality or low certainty, included small sample sizes, various dosing regimens, or have been so riddled with issues that the study was withdrawn.”
Julie Smith said she “does believe” the drug was working for her husband, according to testimony, but Wagshul said he does not know if continued use of ivermectin will benefit him.
Oster said “it is impossible not to feel sympathetic” for Jeffrey Smith but that the court should consider the rights of the hospital.
Kelly Martin, spokeswoman for UC Health, which operates West Chester Hospital, told The Cincinnati Enquirer the ruling was “positive” regarding the “respect for science and the expertise of medical professionals.”
“We do not believe that hospitals or clinicians should be ordered to administer medications and/or therapies, especially unproven medications and/or therapies, against medical advice,” Martin stated.
Oster said Jeffrey Smith can be moved to a hospital where Wagshul has privileges and would be allowed to take ivermectin there without a judge’s ruling.