By Mary Beth Pfeiffer
A 68-year-old woman is near death as her family fights a hospital that is refusing to give her an FDA-approved drug that has helped other late stage COVID-19 sufferers.
A handful of families have used courts to get the drug, ivermectin, for their hospitalized loved ones. But Nurije Fype’s situation is unprecedented – it is the first in which a facility, Elmhurst Hospital near Chicago, has defied a judge’s order to administer the medicine.
Ralph Lorigo, the patient’s attorney, and Desareta Fype, her daughter — who won an order Friday, April 30, only to see it rejected by the hospital — aren’t giving up.
In a hastily arranged conference call afterward, Lorigo said he suggested to the judge, “Send the sheriff to the hospital and tell the administrator he must abide by the order. If he refuses, put him in jail.”
But despite Fype’s precarious condition – in ICU and on a ventilator since April 28 — the judge won’t decide until at least Monday, May 3, whether to hold the hospital in contempt, as Lorigo asks, and thereby force the issue.
“As a lawyer for 47 years, a hospital refusing to obey a court order?” Lorigo said in a phone interview. “That’s inconceivable to me.”
Desareta Fype, whose mother went into cardiac arrest just before being intubated, described herself as, “furious, devastated, and frustrated,” by the hospital’s resistance. “I will keep fighting for her life,” she said, advising others to educate themselves so they can make the “right choice.”
A hospital spokesperson, meantime, said in an email: “We can’t comment due to patient privacy regulations.”
Ivermectin has been at the center of three successful court cases of Lorigo’s. In three upstate counties of New York, hospitalized COVID patients – 65, 80 and 81 years old – were given the drug under court order and recovered.
Clash of Titans
In the second of two ongoing cases, ivermectin is being sought for Deborah Bucko, 52, in a battle described by Lorigo as a “Clash of the Titans.”
The case pits a huge medical chain, Mount Sinai Health System, against Dr. Pierre Kory, president of Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance and the acknowledged leading ivermectin proponent globally. Bucko had received a court-ordered five-day course of ivermectin starting April 20 and improved, but “is not out of the woods yet,” Lorigo said.
Her husband, Scott Mantel, now wants Mount Sinai Nassau South Hospital to continue treatment according to updated FLCCC guidelines, meaning additional ivermectin at a higher dose and until recovery. The hospital balked. Dueling arguments – by the hospital and Kory — have been presented to court, which could rule at any time.
In his affidavit, the hospital’s chief of medicine, Dr. Aaron Glatt, argued that ivermectin should not have been given in the first place because it “was not consistent with the Mount Sinai Health System Guidelines,” which were based on “recommendations of professional societies, international government agencies and infectious disease expert opinions published in medical journals.”
In particular, he said there was “no clinically acceptable research data supporting the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 for a seriously ill patient such as Ms. Bucko, who has been on a ventilator for an extended time.”
Bucko “has not responded” to the five-day ivermectin treatment, Glatt states. “Her prognosis unfortunately continues to be poor.”
But arguing on Bucko’s behalf, Dr. Kory said Glatt’s affidavit contained “numerous errors, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations.” Glatt’s claims that many agencies “uniformly” reject ivermectin, Kory wrote, “is both incorrect and out of date.”
Kory cited the National Institutes of Health neutral position, which allows doctors to use ivermectin, as well as the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s recent paper that said evidence “consisted mostly of positive trials of smaller size.” Seven countries recently adopted the drug in their guidelines, he wrote, while five literature reviews support its use.
Kory wrote that “mortality benefits are beyond striking even in late phase disease” like Bucko’s, citing a published study from Broward County, Florida, in which deaths among the most severely ill patients declined from 80 percent to 30 percent.
As significant, perhaps, Bucko did improve after treatment, Kory wrote, with “significantly reduced oxygen requirements and ventilator support.” Three days after ivermectin treatment concluded, he wrote, “the chest radiograph demonstrated a reduction in the severity of abnormalities,” with other subsequent improvements.
“In direct contradiction to Dr. Glatt’s statement that no improvements were shown,” Kory wrote, “the medical record clearly documents significantly improved respiratory and cardiovascular function since ivermectin treatment was initiated.”
Look at the Evidence
In a phone interview, Dr. Kory spoke about both cases as examples of the failure of medicine in a pandemic.
“These doctors refuse to look at the emerging evidence and are willfully ignorant and digging their heels in against one of the safest medications in history,” Kory said. “Look at the emerging evidence and act fast.”
“I’m just shocked at the overreliance on public health agencies to recommend how to doctor,” he added. “That’s not how we doctor.”
Advocates of Mrs. Fype were jubilant – briefly — when the court ruled Friday, “Elmhurst Hospital and Elmhurst Medical Group are ordered to administer ivermectin … immediately and as prescribed thereafter.” But the hospital, though aware of the legal action, had failed to attend the court hearing – and subsequently rejected the court’s ruling.
In a conference call later, Lorigo pleaded for the judge to act. “I said, ‘Judge, this is a life and death situation. … She’s in bad shape. They told the daughter there is a very high likelihood she will die.’”
Lorigo said the judge told him to file a motion to hold the hospital in contempt. “The judge said, ‘I’m sympathetic, but this is way.’”
In his other successful cases, against hospitals in Buffalo, Rochester, and Batavia, N.Y., three patients were in ICUs and on ventilators when given ivermectin. Lorigo said two are home and the most recent patient, who was treated in early April, is in a rehabilitation facility.
Lorigo’s first case was Judith Smentkiewicz, an active 80-year-old who worked, lived independently and, before she got ivermectin, was given a 20 percent chance of surviving COVID. Today, he said, she “is home and living her life the way she always has.”