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Norfolk doctor leading charge for controversial COVID-19 treatment faces off against Sentara in court

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Posted at 2:40 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 22:06:46-05

NORFOLK, Va. - News 3 is continuing coverage on an investigation that we have been reporting on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

This is the latest update in the News 3 investigation: “Norfolk doctor leading charge for controversial COVID-19 treatment.

On Thursday, Sentara Healthcare faced off in court with one of their own doctors, Paul Marik.

Marik, who is the director of the Critical Care Unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, is suing the healthcare system because they won't allow him to treat COVID-19 patients with the drug ivermectin, along with a host of other drugs that make up his developed MATH+ Protocol.

"Almost all of the treatments we use have been demonstrated to be safe and effective in randomized controlled trials," Marik said.

Marik claims that Sentara's policy may have led to the deaths of four of his patients who were never given the opportunity to learn of or be treated with potentially life-saving medicines. He said these actions are criminal.

"It's not just for me; it's for patients across the whole country. They have the right to choose what treatment they want," Marik said Thursday. "It's an outrage and yet there are other effective treatments available that they are trying to silence. The patients across this country need to know that they have options."

Marik's support of ivermectin was the subject of a different News 3 investigation in September.

He and a group of doctors pointed to a list of smaller studies suggesting the drug is safe and effective at treating COVID-19, but other doctors say there needs to be more data for bigger clinical trials.

In a statement, Sentara said they follow guidance of health agencies that don't currently recommend the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

Sentara Healthcare is consistently ranked among the top hospitals in the nation for quality and patient safety, and follows evidence-based protocols to treat COVID-19 as recommended by trusted agencies including the CDC, NIH and FDA. All of these agencies currently do not recommend the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 due to a lack of evidence regarding its safety and efficacy. Sentara generates treatment guidelines by engaging multi-disciplinary groups of clinicians to review literature, care standards and provide expert advice. In most situations, physicians are able to deviate from guidelines to individualize care for patients. However, in some scenarios, treatments that may potentially harm patients or that are widely considered to be outside the standard of care may be limited.

To that end, COVID-19 treatment guidelines at Sentara have been consistently communicated to all medical staff throughout the pandemic using usual channels. The most recent guidelines generated by the multi-disciplinary group of clinicians did include, but were not limited to, guidance on the use of ivermectin. All members of the medical staff receive the same guidelines.

Of note, on Tuesday, November 9, prior to when we were informed about Dr. Marik’s lawsuit, the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine’s (JICM) editorial board retracted [journals.sagepub.com] a recent article that Dr. Marik co-authored on the MATH+ protocol, in which ivermectin is used. Sentara Healthcare felt obligated to reach out to JICM with our concerns about Sentara Norfolk General Hospital data that the authors used to make conclusions, and provide accurate data to the Journal. After thorough review by JICM’s editorial board, the article was retracted. The Journal followed their retraction guidelines and procedures.

There was a pretty good sized group of people outside the court complex Thursday showing their support for Dr. Marik before he went into the courtroom.

There were people who claimed ivermectin saved their loved ones who were in the hospital with COVID-19 and others who believed their family died because they didn't have the option.

In the courtroom, Marik took the stand, arguing this court case isn’t about telling what Sentara to do, but rather about patient consent.

Sentara, on the other hand, says otherwise. They believe this is an attempt to "force" them into providing treatment that they deem unsafe.

Sentara's Chief Quality and Safety Officer, Dr. Joel Bundy, took the stand to argue this. During questioning, he said there are processes that each hospital must go through in order to administer certain pharmaceuticals. According to Bundy, Sentara Healthcare has 12 high performance teams that set these standards.

Sentara, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) advise against prescribing ivermectin to COVID patients. They said in court that Marik has no standing.

It's important to note that Sentara guidelines do not prohibit Marik from advising people of the ivermectin option for COVID patients, they just can't receive that treatment at Sentara.

Marik’s attorney, Fred Taylor, explained what would happen if the judge rules in Marik's favor and allows the temporary injunction.

"If Dr. Marik or another doctor for that matter decides it's in their patient’s best interest - they talk to their patients about it, their patient also concurs - then that gives them the opportunity to have this medication,” said Taylor.

"It seems to me it's what the committee says versus what we think, you know what I mean? It's the patient, it's the physician who is at the bedside; I am responsible for the patient,” Marik said.

We asked Sentara if they would be doing any interviews, but they said not at this time.

Now, the case is in the judge's hands.

He says he'll provide an answer as soon as he can, but likely not before Marik is expected at the hospital for his rotation on Saturday.

The Norfolk Circuit Court Clerks Office later said the judge will make a ruling sometime next week.

News 3 will continue to update this story as we learn more.

Related: Following Norfolk doctor's lead, other COVID-19 patients taking hospitals to court to get access to Ivermectin