Tuesday, 25 June, 2024
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US doctors charged for anti-vax actions sue regulator

Four doctors threatened with disciplinary action by Washington’s medical regulator over spreading Covid-19 misinformation want a court to strip the state’s Medical Commission of the power to punish doctors who offer unapproved treatments for the virus or who promote misinformation that might discourage vaccination.

Three of the doctors have been charged by the commission with prescribing Ivermectin to patients with Covid-19 without documenting an adequate rationale, as well as making false statements about coronavirus vaccines.

The fourth is a paediatrician, Renata Moon, who claims in the suit that she relinquished her state medical licence under duress after her employer, Washington State University, warned she would be reported to the commission for her public comments against vaccinating children to prevent Covid-19.

Supported in their suit by the conservative group the Silent Majority Foundation, the doctors have asked a state superior court to strike down their cases, restore Moon’s licence, and issue “a stay of all Washington Medical Commission proceedings … involving allegations or charges for the prescription of Ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19 or for the dissemination of ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ related to the treatment of Covid-19”.

The four doctors allege the commission did not follow its own standard procedures in drafting its Covid policy. They also argue that the policy infringes their constitutional right to free speech, reports The BMJ.

Trump country

Three of the doctors come from eastern Washington state, one of the most conservative areas in the US. Voters there have little trust in the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and have died of Covid at higher rates since vaccines became available.

Ivermectin, a drug never proved to benefit patients with Covid-19 but recommended by former President Donald Trump, was in high demand in the area at the pandemic’s height, and the veterinary version, which is dangerous to humans, was widely used.

Michael Kwame Turner, a graduate of Harvard Medical School who worked at the Mayo Clinic before settling in Washington, is accused by the commission of not meeting standards of care when he prescribed Ivermectin to five patients, most of whom requested it online.

Turner prescribed Ivermectin to a 74-year-old man over the telephone without discussing other treatments, even though the man had just tested positive for Covid-19 and should have been offered monoclonal antibodies, according to guidelines.

Six days later the man went to hospital, his condition having worsened, but could not be treated with remdesivir because his liver enzymes were elevated – a known side effect of Ivermectin.

He died 10 days later.

Richard Wilkinson, a doctor in Yakima, has already been found by the commission to have made false statements on his website, adds the BMJ.

He compared the push for Covid vaccination to the murder of Jewish people in Hitler’s Germany and wrote that patients should not trust the FDA or the county and state Health Departments.

He was also found to have provided negligent care to seven Covid patients in 2021. In one case, a 65-year-old man taken to hospital by ambulance left against medical advice when doctors refused him Ivermectin.

The patient went to the Wilkinson Wellness Clinic, where he was given a prescription for the drug. Several days later he returned to hospital seeking treatment, telling doctors he had been unvaccinated, on Wilkinson’s advice. He died of Covid-19 at the hospital.

Wilkinson also prescribed human Ivermectin to a 91-year-old man with a fever who had been taking Ivermectin paste meant for horses. A week later the patient went to hospital by ambulance, but was past the window for remdesivir, and his family refused treatment with baricitinib.

He also died.

Wilkinson was fined $15 000 and his licence put on probation for five years, during which he may not prescribe Ivermectin. He must also undergo a clinical competency assessment, the commission ruled.

The other doctor, Ryan Cole, is a pathologist who lives in Idaho but has a Washington medical licence.

He is accused of prescribing Ivermectin to four patients after communicating through instant message chats without taking an adequate history, performing an examination, or obtaining informed consent.

Cole is also charged over public statements he made, including the claim that a local surgeon died from the Covid vaccine, when in fact the surgeon died of a heart attack six months after his shot.

Cole called the coronavirus vaccine “a fake vaccine . . . the clot shot, needle rape”, at a video presentation with a politician that received more than 1m views.

He has been reported to the Idaho Medical Board by the Idaho Medical Association and by the College of American Pathologists, which revoked his fellowship. But no proceedings have been launched and, like most state boards, Idaho’s does not reveal ongoing investigations. Medical board members are generally appointed by state governors and often reflect their political bent.

Regulators in retreat

The doctors’ lawsuit is the latest front in a growing battle that pits physicians who dispute the scientific evidence on Covid against the gatekeepers of professional standards.

It is a battle regulators have been losing. Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee have passed laws shielding doctors from disciplinary action for prescribing Ivermectin, and a similar Bill awaits passage in Florida.

Republican Attorneys-General in Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Carolina have issued opinions warning state medical boards against pursuing such cases.

California passed a law last year empowering the state medical board to pursue doctors who spread Covid misinformation, but it was put on hold by a federal judge in January while a legal challenge plays out.

The Federation of State Medical Boards criticised its members’ pandemic performance in a 2022 report, noting that the growth of misinformation on social media “has not been accompanied by any increase in accountability for those who disseminate the misinformation and disinformation”.

A review by The Washington Post that drew responses from 36 state medical boards identified 480 complaints involving Covid misinformation, but only five doctors have lost their licences as a result, and all had other findings against them involving deficient treatment of patients.

Medical boards are reluctant to interfere with doctors’ right to prescribe off label, so they typically pursue Ivermectin prescribers only if they fail to keep proper records documenting their reasons.

The Washington Medical Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

 

The BMJ article – Covid-19: US doctors sue regulator for charging them with spreading misinformation in pandemic (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Ivermectin: ‘Pitting frontline doctors against bureaucrat academic clinicians’

 

Doctors face penalties for ‘COVID lies’ under new California Bill

 

Increased human use of veterinary Ivermectin reflected in Oregon Poison Centre calls

 

50 doctors in new SAHPRA court challenge over Ivermectin access

 

 

 

 

 

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