Nebraska's attorney general has said he will not discipline or prosecute physicians who prescribe controversial, off-label drugs in order to treat and prevent COVID-19 infections if they have patient consent.
KETV reported Attorney General Doug Peterson issued his 48-page opinion Friday after receiving a question from Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services CEO Dannette Smith. She asked if doctors could face discipline or legal action under Nebraska's Uniform Credential Act (UCA) if they prescribed medications like Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19 in their patients.
"After receiving your question and conducting our investigation, we have found significant controversy and suspect information about potential COVID-19 treatment," Peterson wrote. He also cited numerous medical journals' articles and case studies.
"We emphasize... our office is not recommending any specific treatments for COVID-19. That is not our role," the attorney general continued.
"Rather, we address only the off-label early treatment options discussed in this opinion and conclude that the available evidence suggests they might work for some people," Peterson wrote. "Allowing physicians to consider these early treatments will free them to evaluate additional tools that could save lives, keep patients out of the hospital, and provide relief for our already strained health care system."
The FDA has cautioned against using hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to treat COVID. Former President Trump took HCQ early in the pandemic to prevent a COVID-19 infection, then he stopped using it in May of 2020.
Other famous people said the drug worked for them. Actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson said HCQ was useful in their recovery from the coronavirus. Actor Daniel Dae Kim (Lost & Hawaii Five-0) claimed HCQ was the "secret weapon" that helped in his recovery from the disease.
Last year, Pastor A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY, talked about his harrowing bout with COVID-19 and how the drug cocktail with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin saved his life.
Families Filing Lawsuits Against Hospitals, Seeking Alternative COVID Treatments for Loved Ones
At least two dozen lawsuits have been filed around the U.S., many in recent weeks, by people seeking to force hospitals to give their COVID-stricken loved ones ivermectin, a drug for parasites that has been promoted as a treatment despite a lack of conclusive evidence that it helps people with the virus.
Interest in the drug started rising toward the end of last year and the beginning of this one, when studies – some later withdrawn, in other countries – seemed to suggest ivermectin had some potential in the fight against COVID-19.
But some medical experts suggest having a court step in is not the way to practice medicine.
“The way medicine works is, they are the experts, the doctors and... the hospitals," Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine told the Associated Press. “When you go there, you’re not going to a restaurant. You don't order your own treatments."
“You can’t have a medical field that’s subjected to having to practice according to patient demand backed up by court orders. That is positively horrible medicine," Caplan said.
Ralph Lorigo doesn't see it that way. The attorney from Buffalo, New York, filed his first of several ivermectin lawsuits in January after being approached by the family of an 80-year-old woman who was in the hospital on a ventilator. His second case was later that month, for a hospitalized 65-year-old woman.
In both cases, judges ordered hospitals to allow the women to take ivermectin as their families wanted. Both women survived their hospitalizations, according to the AP.
Lorigo, who has taken on numerous cases since is adamant that ivermectin works. Health experts and federal agencies say that any evidence of it being effective against COVID-19 is slim and more research needs to be done. Studies are currently underway.
Israeli Clinical Trials Show Positive Results with Ivermectin
As CBN News reported earlier this month, a top Israeli doctor was asked by Israel's government to research treatments for COVID. His studies indicated positive results with ivermectin in clinical trials.
Dr. Eli Schwartz, M.D. is the founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. It's considered one of the world's top hospitals. Dr. Schwartz is also a professor at Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University.
For decades, Schwartz has traveled the world fighting outbreaks like Dengue Fever and Ebola. At the beginning of the pandemic and months before any vaccine was available, Israel's Defense Ministry assigned Schwartz to find a medical solution for COVID-19.
"Since Ivermectin is one of the drugs that we are using in daily life in the Tropical Institute, I knew it. I know the safety profile of it. And since there was some hints of in-vitro studies, which show the efficacy against specifically, even against COVID-19, we decided to go for it," he said.
That meant putting the drug through a clinical trial that lasted 10 months.
"Our study, which was done here, it's a randomized controlled trial, double-blind. It's really, I would say, this is the best method that you are doing studies. And our conclusion is that it really has antiviral activities," Schwartz told CBN News.
From his international experience in the field, Schwartz knew Ivermectin targeted parasites. Since its development in 1987, nearly 4 billion doses with few side effects and at low cost have protected millions of people from insidious parasitical diseases like River Blindness and Elephantiasis.
That success won its developers the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2015. Schwartz's study made headlines in Israel when his trial showed Ivermectin to also be anti-viral.
"This is the first drug to show antiviral activity," the doctor explained. "And then, I think, there's a good reason to continue with a much more thorough investigation to see, for example, whether people who are at high risk, may not deteriorate to be hospitalized, to be mechanically ventilated, or to death."
Schwartz's clinical study found that by day four, 86% of his patients who took ivermectin recovered. By day six, 94% recovered.
"The bottom line is… Ivermectin decreased faster the viral load, and also sterilized the culture much better compared to the placebo," he noted.
Schwartz explained to CBN News this means Ivermectin killed the virus and his patients became non-infectious. He said this development could save lives and reduce quarantines by days.
"It's a huge change in life. It's a huge change for the patient. It's a huge change for his family. And from the economical point of view, it's a dramatic change. You know, it's how much money you can save for the economy of the country if you can shorten the isolation time," he said.
Use Not Accepted by Global Heath Professionals
But ivermectin is not accepted by the global health establishment. A major FDA concern is that a number of people have tried to self-medicate using a form of the drug intended for livestock.
"Don't do it. There's no evidence whatsoever that it works and it could potentially have toxicity...with people who have gone to poison control centers because they've taken the drug at a ridiculous dose and wind up getting sick," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The World Health Organization advises "that Ivermectin only be used be used to treat COVID-19 within clinical trials."
The National Institutes of Health said, "Ivermectin is not approved by the FDA for the treatment of any viral infection" and that "well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19."
For studies to be accepted by the broader medical community, it must be peer-reviewed and published in a medical journal. That's where Prof. Schwartz hit a roadblock.
Several journals turned him down, but one is currently reviewing his study.
Schwartz added that while many health agencies want better studies, no large-scale trials on ivermectin happened until Oxford University began one in June of this year.
"I mean, it took them 18 months from the beginning of the pandemic to try to do it. I mean, people dying all over the world. And you have drug under your hand and you have to wait so long until you get any conduction of a good study," he said.
'We Are in the Arms of Pharma, and the Pharma Is Looking for New Drugs'
Now, the pharmaceutical company Merck, which developed ivermectin, and Pfizer are in a race to produce an oral anti-viral drug for COVID that some believe is what ivermectin could do already.
"In my view, the whole story of Ivermectin is much beyond Ivermectin. It's even beyond the corona. The problem is that we are in the arms of the pharma and the pharma is looking for new drugs. And, therefore, all old drugs which might be with a good potential to use it for whatever you're looking for, there's not any parents to push for it," Schwartz claimed.
Prof. Schwartz advocates the use of ivermectin but also believes in the vaccine.
"Most of the world, still vaccine is not available. So, if we have a medication that can try to reduce the magnitude of the pandemic in the meantime, that's absolutely needed, but when, if I have to compare the vaccine and Ivermectin for prevention, no doubt the vaccine. This is the solution, the international solution," he said.
Schwartz hopes more research will prove the drug can help fight the pandemic and that it will eventually be allowed to treat patients on a widespread basis and not just within clinical trials.
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