The medical director for seven Western New York skilled nursing facilities says he has been using Ivermectin to help elderly patients fight Covid-19.
Dr. Paul Shields is not ready to call Ivermectin – which has not been approved as a Covid treatment by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration – a wonder drug.
But he believes it has helped 80 out of 90 of his patients recover at an Elderwood nursing home for Covid-19 patients in Amherst.
“I am not trying to become the poster boy for Ivermectin. I’m not calling it a miracle drug. But it is part of the regimen of drugs we now use to treat Covid patients,” Shields told The Buffalo News.
Shields and two other Buffalo area physicians have used the inexpensive drug to treat more than 100 Covid patients.
Dr. Thomas Madejski, a former president of the New York State Medical Society, said he has also used Ivermectin as an effective treatment for Covid-19 patients in Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties.
And Dr. Zerline Snyderman, a medical director for the McGuire Group, told The News on Friday that McGuire has had success using the drug to treat Covid-19 patients at its Harris Hill Nursing Facility in Amherst, which specializes in coronavirus care.
The McGuire facility at Harris Hill and the Elderwood facility in Amherst are two of the busiest Covid-19 treatment facilities in Western New York.
Ivermectin is a controversial drug in some circles, because the FDA has advised doctors against using it to treat coronavirus, saying more testing is needed.
But some physicians are using Ivermectin as part of the arsenal of drugs to combat a virus that has killed more than 430,000 Americans.
“I’ve been offering it to my Covid patients for three or four weeks now, with generally good results. I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Madejski, who emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not as a representative of the state medical society. “I’ve given it to about a dozen patients. A couple of them, who were in the early stages of Covid, made remarkable progress. None of my patients have been hurt by it. The side effects are benign.”
Of his experience using Ivermectin at the Elderwood nursing home, Shields said, “Since December, we’ve given it to 90 patients at the Covid unit in Amherst, with the consent of the patients or their families. Eighty of them are still with us. It does appear to be helping our patients. It’s not harming them. We haven’t had one patient suffer harmful side effects.”
Discovered in the late 1970s, Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that has been used to treat hundreds of millions of people all over the world for head lice, skin rashes and parasitic worms. It is also used to treat dogs, cats and livestock.
While it approves Ivermectin for those uses, the FDA – the agency that regulates drugs in America – has repeatedly urged against using Ivermectin pills as a coronavirus treatment, saying more scientific study is needed to verify its effectiveness.
The National Institutes of Health, a federal research agency that helps determine national health policies, last year recommended against Ivermectin as a Covid treatment, but changed its position on Jan. 14 of this year. NIH says it no longer advises for or against using Ivermectin to treat Covid. The NIH said doctors and patients should make their own decisions.
Meanwhile, advocates for Ivermectin say it has saved many thousands of lives in other countries, such as Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Egypt and parts of India.
“There are 54 studies underway all over the world, and many of the preliminary results have been very positive,” said Dr. Pierre Kory, a critical care doctor from Wisconsin who has been imploring the federal government to recognize Ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment.
“A growing number of hospitals and nursing care facilities are using it. I am sure Ivermectin will eventually be recognized worldwide as a Covid treatment. The question I can’t answer is, ‘When?’ ” Kory said.
Western New York became a focal point of the Ivermectin debate in recent weeks, after state judges ordered two hospitals to give Ivermectin to two Covid-19 patients who were doing poorly. Their families demanded the hospitals try the drug.
Attorneys Ralph C. Lorigo and Jon F. Minear said the two women – Judith Smentkiewicz, an 80-year-old from Cheektowaga, and Glenna Dickinson, a 65-year-old from Albion – have improved with the help of Ivermectin.
“This past week, we’ve had calls from people in Australia, California and the United Kingdom, people asking us to help their family members get treated with Ivermectin,” Lorigo said.
But government experts say more study is needed to prove Ivermectin is a dependable treatment for Covid-19. The World Health Organization said it, too, is waiting for results of more studies.
Who would be in line to make huge profits if Ivermectin was recognized worldwide as a Covid treatment? Nobody, according to Lorigo, who has done some legal research on the drug.
"The patent for Ivermectin ran out in 1996, so just about any drug company can make it now, cheaply," Lorigo said. "One of my clients bought it in Rochester the other day for 83 cents a pill. Right now, there is very little profit motive for the big drug companies to sell Ivermectin."
Kory is one of the founding members of the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, a nonprofit seeking better care for Covid patients. In his view, the U.S. government is being too cautious in its evaluation of Ivermectin. He believes one reason for that caution is the controversy that erupted last year over Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that was championed by former President Donald J. Trump as a virus cure.
“We’re at war with Covid-19,” Kory told The News. “While our government delays, people are dying and case numbers are rising.”