Over the past seven months, we reported (here, here, here, here, here, and here) on cases in which relatives of individuals sick with COVID-19 sued to force hospitals to administer ivermectin to their loved ones. Apart from one that issued a quickly lifted emergency injunction and another that was reversed on appeal, each court to hear such a suit ruled against the plaintiff.
Asserting constitutional, statutory, regulatory, and contractual claims, the plaintiffs advanced various theories as to why their relatives had a right to receive—and the hospitals had a duty to administer—ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug used to treat horses more often than humans. Each theory was rejected.
There were several recurring themes in the decisions refusing to compel administration of ivermectin.
One was that “judges are not doctors” and that “[j]ust as [judges] cannot legislate from the bench, [they] cannot practice medicine from the bench.” Texas Health Huguley, Inc. v. Jones, 637 S.W.3d 202, 207 (Tex. App. 2021).
Another was that “[t]reating COVID-19 with ivermectin is undisputedly contrary to generally accepted health care standards” and that “[p]reeminent institutions representing numerous facets of the national medical establishment, including the FDA, CDC, AMA, World Health Organization, and Infectious Disease Society of America, have criticized the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.” DeMarco v. Christiana Care Health Servs., Inc., 263 A.3d 423, 435 (Del. Ch. 2021).
Finding that “the weight of [scientific] authority shows that [ivermectin] is not an effective treatment” for COVID-19,” courts repeatedly denied the injunctive relief sought because the plaintiffs could not establish that “its administration is necessary to avoid irreparable harm.” DeMarco, 263 A.3d at 438; accord, e.g., Smith v. West Chester Hosp., LLC, 2021 WL 4129083, at *4 (Ohio Com. Pl. 2021).
Now, as reported in the New York Times, a newly published study in the New England Journal of Medicine reinforces the previous scientific consensus. The paper, which analyzes the results of a large-scale clinical trial, concludes that “[t]reatment with ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of Covid-19.” Although not surprising, the results of the clinical trial are nonetheless notable because they directly refute several earlier meta-analyses that, contrary to most, had suggested a benefit from ivermectin.
As the new study notes, the meta-analyses suggesting a benefit from ivermectin were deeply flawed. They were based on “a reported trial of ivermectin treatment for Covid-19 [that] was suspected of malfeasance and … withdrawn from publication” and “other trials [that] have been weakened by concerns about quality.” When a consortium of researchers performed a meta-analysis that excluded the dubious data, it “concluded that ivermectin did not offer a treatment benefit.” And even if the meta-analyses suggesting a benefit from ivermectin had been derived from trustworthy data, they studied fewer patients combined than the new large-scale clinical trial, which enrolled over 3,500 patients.
In short, as the FDA, every major medical organization, and even a manufacturer of ivermectin has concluded, there is no basis to think that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19. Judges might not be doctors, but in the case of ivermectin the courts have gotten it right.