BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (KXAN) — A COVID-19 patient whose wife sued an Ohio hospital to force the facility to treat her husband with the anti-parasite drug ivermectin has died.
Fifty-one year-old Jeffrey Smith died Sept. 25 after a months-long coronavirus battle in the ICU, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Smith’s story made headlines back in August, when a judge in Butler County, Ohio, ruled in favor of Smith’s wife Julie Smith, who demanded the hospital treating Jeffrey give him ivermectin.
The Ohio Capital Journal reported Judge Gregory Howard ordered West Chester Hospital to give Smith 30 milligrams of ivermectin every day for three weeks. Ivermectin, which can be oral or topical, is not FDA approved for the treatment of COVID-19 in humans and isn’t even an anti-viral drug — meaning it has no impact on the coronavirus.
While ivermectin is approved for humans to treat certain skin conditions (rosacea) and certain external parasites like head lice, the FDA warns human ivermectin is different than the one used in animals. Animal-specific concentrations, like those that may be available at livestock stores, are intended for large animals like horses and elephants, so these doses can be treacherous for humans
In her lawsuit, Julie Smith claimed she offered to sign documents releasing all other parties, doctors and the hospital from all liability related to the dosage. But the hospital declined. Smith said her husband, who was on a ventilator, had a very slim chance of survival and she was willing to try anything to keep him alive.
Another Butler County judge reversed Howard’s decision in September, saying ivermectin didn’t show “convincing evidence” in treating COVID-19. Butler County Judge Michael Oster said in his ruling, “judges are not doctors or nurses… public policy should not and does not support allowing a physician to try ‘any’ type of treatment on human beings.”
Nevertheless, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Julie Smith told Judge Oster she believed the drug was working.
Despite these warnings, false claims of the drug’s effectiveness have proliferated on Facebook, with one such post showing a box of the drug clearly labeled “for oral use in horses only.”
Studies on ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment do exist and some do testify to the drug’s efficacy. But right now that data is overwhelmingly considered inconsistent, questionable and/or inconclusive. Medical experts say the data affirming ivermectin is minuscule compared to the amount indicating it’s useless.
A July review of 14 ivermectin studies concluded these studies were small and “few are considered high quality.” The researchers say they’re uncertain about the efficacy and safety of the drug and that “reliable evidence” doesn’t support using ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment outside of well-designed randomized trials.
These are their reasons:
- Low numbers of participants in studies
- Imprecise or even skewed methods: some studies compared use of ivermectin to other unproven drugs like hydroxychloroquine. Comparisons were also made based on different criteria among the two drugs
- Some studies had different interpretations of the results
- The authors say that some studies were excluded from the review completely due to high risk of bias. They found about one-third of study results currently available were at a high risk of bias. Most results were ruled to have at least some concern about bias
- Narrow confidence intervals (CIs) in findings: meaning how much confidence there was in results falling within a certain range. While findings among these studies may indicate that ivermectin may be effective, the probability is slim.
Meanwhile, an oft-cited Australian study found ivermectin killed the virus, but several scientists have since explained humans most likely aren’t capable of ingesting or processing the amounts of ivermectin used during the experiment.
Use of human-intended ivermectin should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor for an FDA-approved use. Regardless of the usage and prescription, the FDA warns ivermectin overdose is still possible. Possible interaction with other medications is also a possibility.
In his ruling ordering West Chester Hospital to cease ivermectin treatment on Smith, Judge Oster explained: “Even [Smith’s] own doctor could not say [that] continued use of ivermectin would benefit him… After considering all of the evidence presented in this case, there can be no doubt that the medical and scientific communities do not support the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.”
The CDC urges and reminds Americans that the currently available COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer (now fully FDA-approved), Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are safe and effective, it says. Booster shots are currently underway. While vaccines do not ensure you won’t become infected with COVID-19, they have significant real-world data confirming they prevent severe illness and hospitalization.
Follow KXAN’s Russell Falcon on Twitter @RussellFalcon for more coronavirus updates.