NIH unable to comply with FOIA on its ivermectin recommendation

NIH unable to comply with FOIA on its ivermectin recommendation

The NIH updated its recommendation on the use of ivermectin in COVID-19 on January 14. The updated recommendation stated:

“There are insufficient data for the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel (the Panel) to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.”

However, there was uncertainty as to whether a vote of the Panel was held on this recommendation. This type of recommendation was not a “rated” recommendation. As per the January 14 update of the Guidelines:

“To be included in the Guidelines, a recommendation must be endorsed by a majority of Panel members. Updates to existing sections that do not affect the rated recommendations are approved by Panel co-chairs without a Panel vote.”

We submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the NIH to ask if there had been a vote on the recommendation. In their response, the Panel was unable to respond to that request stating:

“Please be advised that the FOIA is not intended to answer questions…”

The NIH also was not able to answer that question when it was made by email. In its response, the section on Controlled Correspondence and Public Inquiries at the NIAID stated:

“Information on the Method of Synthesizing Data and Formulating Recommendations may be found on pages 18–20 of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Treatment Guidelines ….”

The secrecy at the NIH surrounding its ivermectin recommendation was reported earlier. Since then, there have been significant developments. The first was that following the FOIA request to the NIH and emails with Panel members, the NIH revised the “voting” paragraph of the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines on February 3. Changes to the Guidelines are highlighted.

“To be included in the Guidelines, a recommendation statement must be endorsed by a majority of Panel members; this applies to recommendations for treatments, recommendations against treatments, and cases where there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against treatments. Updates to existing sections that do not affect the rated recommendations are approved by Panel co-chairs without a Panel vote.”

Following that change to the Guidelines, the NIH was asked if those changes meant that a vote had been held on the ivermectin recommendation. The NIH responded again through the section on Controlled Correspondence and Public Inquiries of the NIAID. In their response, they did not say whether a vote had been held on the ivermectin recommendation. They did confirm, however, that the update to the Guidelines was only to clarify the process.

One further step has been taken to determine if a vote was held on the ivermectin recommendation. The original FOIA request was in the form of a question. The NIH stated that it was denied for that reason. Taking the NIH at its word, the request was reformatted as a request for records. The reformatted version of the request was:

“All updates to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Treatment Guidelines that were endorsed by a vote of the Panel. (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2021 To 01/28/2021)”

The FOIA request was submitted with an expedite request. The NIH denied the expedite request. As of March 1, the NIH has failed to meet the standard FOIA deadline for federal agencies.

Of course, it was obvious after the first refusal from the NIH to respond to the FOIA request that no vote had been held on the ivermectin recommendation. But at that stage, the issue centered on private communications between a journalist and officials at the NIH. With the “clarification” of the voting section of the Guidelines and the non-compliance of the NIH with FOIA this matter is beginning to take on more serious public and legal dimensions.

Note that views expressed in this opinion article are the writer’s and not necessarily those of TrialSite News LLC.  

Responses

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  1. Thanks for the morning laugh. Hahaha, expecting honesty, transparency, accountability, and an actual answer from an all-powerful branch of the government. Please. They do what they want, in secret, it’s none of your business you plebe, their own rules turn on a dime and only apply to them when it’s to their benefit, and they’ll waste ages burying you in paperwork and meaningless minutiae until you stop bothering them.