A judge in Ohio ordered a hospital to treat a Covid-19 patient with ivermectin, despite warnings from experts that the anti-parasitic drug has not proved effective against the virus and can be dangerous in large doses.
Gregory Howard, a judge in Butler county, outside Cincinnati, ordered doctors at West Chester hospital to administer ivermectin to Jeffrey Smith, 51, who contracted Covid-19 in July and was transferred to intensive care.
“My husband is on death’s doorstep,” Julie Smith wrote in court documents. “He has no other options.”
A doctor outside the hospital was willing to prescribe the drug but the hospital refused to administer it. The judge ordered that Smith receive 30mg for three weeks.
Ivermectin is most commonly used against parasites in livestock animals including horses and cows. It is also used in humans, against some parasitic worms and external parasites like head lice.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that “taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm”.
But amid widespread resistance to public health mandates and vaccines, particularly on the political right, amid a surge in hospitalisations and deaths due to the Delta variant and in light of testimony from some doctors, ivermectin has found advocates as a treatment for Covid-19.
Research, tuttavia, has not shown that ivermectin can prevent or treat Covid-19.
One of the largest trials for the drug was halted earlier this month by a data safety monitoring board, because the drug proved no more effective than a placebo.
Nonetheless, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said at a town hall last week “hatred for Donald Trump” had made researchers biased against the drug.
“I don’t know if it works, but I keep an open mind,” Paul said.
Prescriptions for ivermectin have jumped to more than 88,000 a week, dal 3,600 a week pre-pandemic. Some livestock stores have reported an increase in demand for doses meant for animals.
The FDA warns that “animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which weigh a lot more than we do … Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans.”
Calls to poison control centers across the US have increased, as people who have taken ivermectin report symptoms including extreme vomiting and diarrhea.
In Ohio, Dr Steve Feagins, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health, told the local ABC affiliate WCPO: “I absolutely understand desperation when your loved one is in the hospital, and they’re doing everything they can and you hear about something that you want to use it.”
He also said the decision to prescribe ivermectin to treat Covid had “a tough risk-to-benefit ratio”.