Increasing demand for ivermectin as a potential Covid-19 treatment has led some patients to sue hospitals in order to receive the drug—even though current research suggests it has little benefit against Covid-19 and FDA has not authorized ivermectin for use to prevent or treat the disease.
Radio Advisory: Aaron Carroll on how clinicians can combat medical misinformation
Interest in ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, as a potential treatment for Covid-19 has grown in recent months. Although some early studies suggested ivermectin could be an effective treatment, larger, more recent studies indicate that any benefits of the drug are either small or nonexistent.
Based on the available research, ivermectin has not been approved for use to prevent or treat Covid-19 by FDA, the National Institutes of Health, or the World Health Organization, FiveThirtyEight reports. In addition, CDC in August advised health care professionals to steer patients away from the drug after usage of veterinary version of the drug led to a surge in calls to poison control centers.
However, that has not stopped patients from seeking it out on their own, either through a doctor's prescription or other means. So far, many hospitals have refused to treat patients with ivermectin, leading to protests and, in some cases, even lawsuits.
For example, an Ohio woman sued West Chester Hospital for refusing to administer a prescription of ivermectin to her husband after he was placed into a medically induced coma due to Covid-19 complications.
On Aug. 23, a Butler County judge ruled in the woman's favor, ordering the hospital to treat her husband with ivermectin for three weeks. However, on Sept. 6, a separate Butler County judge overruled the initial order, allowing the hospital to stop the ivermectin treatment after 13 days.
In a similar case, an Illinois woman sued Memorial Medical Center to get the hospital to treat her husband with ivermectin, saying he had previously told her he wanted to receive the drug if he became sick with Covid-19.
In response, the hospital argued ivermectin was unnecessary considering the patient's condition was improving and he did not have an active Covid-19 infection. The patient's physicians also added that they believed "administration of ivermectin will likely result in kidney and lung damage, which can lead to organ failure and death." The courts ultimately sided with the hospital in this case, MedPage Today reports.
Similar lawsuits over treating Covid-19 patients with ivermectin have been filed against hospitals across the country, including in California, Delaware, Louisiana, New York, and Texas. According to FiveThirtyEight, judges have sided with patients in at least seven of these lawsuits, ordering hospitals to either administer ivermectin or allow other physicians to administer it.
Although recent studies have suggested ivermectin is not beneficial as a Covid-19 treatment, clinical trials on its effectiveness against the disease are still ongoing, FiveThirtyEight reports, and federal agencies and professional groups that develop treatment guidelines must review these results before the drug can be authorized for use.
"The number of studies and the quality of them and the different research methodologies in any field of medicine is always pretty overwhelming." Carolyn Bramante, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, said. "That's why we have professional societies and regulatory bodies who take all of that evidence into consideration."
Separately, speaking about patients' demands to receive ivermectin despite its unproven status, Rodney Hood, chair of the National Medical Association's Covid-19 Task Force on Vaccines and Therapeutics, said, "You don't get treated based upon what you feel or think." He added, "There are certain approved treatment regimens for certain diseases. If [what a patient is requesting] doesn't fit within that regimen, then you cannot treat them.”
Separately, Steve Feagins, chief clinical officer at Mercy Health in Cincinnati, said while he understands people's desperation for a treatment that is not a vaccine to help prevent or treat the coronavirus, the decision to prescribe ivermectin to Covid-19 patients has a "tough risk-to-benefit ratio."
"Anything we give in a hospital, you have to know that that has been pharmacy-vetted, approved ... [and that] the benefit exceeds the harm," Feagins said. "But I could tell you, if something works and is approved and authorized, we will do it." (Rogers, FiveThirtyEight, 9/27; Knowles/Bella, Washington Post, 9/2; Zuckerman, Ohio Capital Journal, 9/6; Henderson, MedPage Today, 9/1)
Medical misinformation has been a significant problem for a long time, but amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the problem has become even more widespread. In this episode, host Rachel Woods sits down with Dr. Aaron Carroll, author, professor, and Indiana University chief health officer—to discuss what all clinicians should do to combat medical misinformation.
Plus, Advisory Board experts Solomon Banjo and Pam Divack offer their take on clinician’s role in online spaces (with patients and with each other) and translate those same principles for the rest of the industry.
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