NORFOLK, Va. - A Norfolk doctor has filed a lawsuit against Sentara Norfolk General Hospital this week.
This is the latest update in the News 3 investigation: “Norfolk doctor leading charge for controversial COVID-19 treatment.”
In this lawsuit, Dr. Paul Marik, the director of the hospital's critical care unit, says Sentara's ban of its use to treat patients with ivermectin is deadly and against the law.
"I think it's criminal. It's immoral, and it's illegal," Marik said. "Can you understand the toll that that takes that I have young patients - young patients in the 30s and 40s, who I had to watch die - while the hospital prevented me from giving them the treatment I thought was in their best interest?"
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug, widely used to treat worms in horses and cows, that has been at the center of controversy over COVID-19 care.
In the 80-page document, Marik said Sentara issued a directive to doctors last month banning the use of including ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients unless they were part of a clinical trial.
"It was a memo sent throughout the healthcare system that was really directed personally at me to prevent me from prescribing these medications that I, as the treating physician, wanted to use," he said.
He also made a claim in the lawsuit that said 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.
"It's the physician who determines what's the best treatment for the patient, not nameless bureaucrats sitting in an office," Marik said. "I had to stand by idly watching [my patients] die because I was not allowed to do what I'm meant to do."
While News 3 could not confirm those claims, the FDA, CDC, and U.S. Surgeon General warn against ivermectin's use for COVID patients. They said there isn't enough data to support how it works against the virus.
Dr. David Boulware is an infectious disease expert guiding a major study about ivermectin funded by the National Institutes of Health. He said, "If ivermectin is highly effective, then everyone should be using it. And the same time if it's really proven not to be effective, and not have any benefit, that people should not be using it and they should really move on to something else."
Marik’s use of ivermectin was the subject of News 3 anchor Jessica Larché’s investigation in September. On Thursday, he told News 3 reporter Erin Miller that he has never prescribed ivermectin to Sentara patients or non-Sentara patients.
Marik and his international group of doctors point to a list of smaller studies that suggest the drug is safe and effective at treating COVID-19.
Other doctors say there needs to be more data for there to be bigger clinical trials.
There are some big trials underway right now, but early data has not shown promise for ivermectin.
Here’s a list of local hospitals and their stance on treating COVID patients with ivermectin:
- Riverside Regional - Not allowed
- Patient First - Allowed
- Bon Secours - Suggests not to use
- CHKD - Not allowed
- Sentara - Not allowed
- Chesapeake Regional declined to comment.
Riverside Regional did allow their doctors to prescribe ivermectin to COVID-19 patients, but changed their policy two months ago "due to a lack of evidence."
Sentara Healthcare sent a statement to News 3 on Thursday about the lawsuit:
"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 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.
Sentara Healthcare is currently studying this lawsuit and offers no further comment on it at this time."