After her husband was infected with the coronavirus and entered an intensive care unit this month, Angela Underwood pushed for the Louisville hospital that was treating him to administer ivermectin to her husband — the deworming drug some people have used to try to treat or prevent covid-19 in recent months.
She sued Norton Brownsboro Hospital after it allegedly refused to administer the treatment to Lonnie Underwood, 58, without a court order and supervision by a doctor with the authority to do so.
“As a Registered Nurse, I demand my husband be administered ivermectin whether by a Norton physician or another healthcare provider of my choosing including myself if necessary,” Angela Underwood wrote in the complaint filed last week, asking the court to designate the unproven treatment as “medically indicated.”
But a judge denied her emergency order request Wednesday in a scathing ruling that called out people who have promoted and supported ivermectin as an effective treatment for covid-19. Jefferson Circuit Judge Charles Cunningham, who said the court “cannot require a hospital to literally take orders from someone who does not routinely issue such orders,” noted in his ruling how the Kentucky Supreme Court “only allows admission of scientific evidence based on sufficient facts or data.”
“Unfortunately, the Internet has no such rule. It is rife with the ramblings of persons who spout ill-conceived conclusions if not out-right falsehoods,” Cunningham wrote in an order obtained by The Washington Post. “If Plaintiff wants to ask the Court to impose her definition of ‘medically indicated’ rather than the hospital’s, she needs to present the sworn testimony of solid witnesses, espousing solid opinions, based on solid data.”
Neither Underwood nor Ashley Butler, her attorney, immediately returned requests for comment Thursday. Lonnie Underwood’s vaccination status is not mentioned in the judge’s order.
Maggie Roetker, a spokeswoman for Norton Healthcare, which oversees the hospital, told The Post that Norton Brownsboro was referring all questions about the case to documents filed in court “out of respect for the family.”
“We witness daily the profound impact that the covid-19 virus has had on too many families,” Roetker wrote in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this patient and family in this very difficult situation.”
The judge’s ruling in Kentucky is the latest legal battle to play out over ivermectin, which has soared in popularity as a covid treatment despite a lack of scientific evidence showing there are benefits of taking the drug for that purpose.
In Ohio, a judge ordered a hospital last month to treat coronavirus patient Jeffrey Smith with ivermectin after his wife sued, alleging that the facility refused to give her husband the drug, despite him having a doctor’s prescription. But that order was reversed by a different judge this month after Smith’s wife and the doctor who prescribed him the ivermectin failed to provide “convincing evidence” at a court hearing to show that the drug could significantly improve his condition.
Butler County Judge Michael A. Oster Jr. argued that “judges are not doctors or nurses.”
“Based on the current evidence, ivermectin is not effective as a treatment for covid-19,” Oster wrote.
Kentucky reported more than 5,300 new covid infections Wednesday, according to data tracked by The Post, and the state’s new cases have slightly increased in the past week. Nearly 2,600 people in the state are hospitalized for the virus, including 644 in ICU beds.
About 50 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.
Kentucky recently joined other states such as Mississippi that have reported an increase in calls regarding people who have ingested ivermectin to treat or prevent covid. Ashley Webb, director of the Kentucky Poison Control Center, told the Louisville Courier Journal earlier this month that most of the 13 misuse calls to that point were “because people are trying to treat covid.”
“These products aren’t formulated for humans,” Webb said to the outlet.
The anti-parasitic medication has been promoted by some prominent conservative media figures and politicians, as well as some physicians, despite the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health warning for months against using the drug to treat covid-19, saying its use can “cause serious harm.”
Angela Underwood said on Facebook that her husband has been in the intensive care unit with covid since Sept. 6, in stable condition but on a ventilator.
She filed her lawsuit Sept. 9 in Jefferson County Circuit Court in the hopes of the Louisville hospital administering ivermectin to her ill husband. Her complaint was later amended to request her husband also be treated with “intravenous vitamin C,” according to the Courier Journal.
“I am his healthcare advocate,” she wrote, according to the complaint. “The studies and research does show the effectiveness of the medication when given to those patients in the trial.”
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman initially ordered Norton Brownsboro to administer ivermectin to Lonnie Underwood “if medically indicated and ordered by an appropriate physician,” court records show. McDonald-Burkman also ordered this week that the hospital to treat him with intravenous vitamin C under the same conditions.
Although Angela Underwood had found a doctor to write an emergency privileges order for the drug, the hospital said in a court hearing that the physician “refused to come see his patient,” according to court records. She accused the hospital of prohibiting Rafael Cruz, an Indiana-based doctor, from treating her husband.
Cunningham, who was filling in for McDonald-Burkman after she was unavailable to hear the hospital’s motion for the court to reconsider, wrote that Cruz did not have privileges at a hospital “providing care for critically ill COVID patients.”
“Frankly, even a doctor who was in the trenches in 2020 fighting hand-to-hand against the virus, is probably not up-to-date with what works and what fails in late 2021 because the virus has mutated and our responses and therapies have evolved with it,” Cunningham wrote.
Efforts to reach Cruz were unsuccessful.
The judge responded specifically to Underwood’s goal of finding a hospital that “believes in the efficacy of these therapies.”
“This is impractical because it is likely that no such hospital in the United States, or certainly in this region, agrees with Plaintiff,” Cunningham wrote. “Moreover, her husband’s medical circumstances may make such a transfer unjustifiably risky.”
Cunningham, who wrote that it would be a “herculean task” for Underwood to show evidence that ivermectin and intravenous vitamin C were “relatively safe and efficacious” enough to overrule the court, said he was “deeply hopeful for Mr. Underwood’s recovery.”
Angela Underwood wrote on Facebook this week that her husband was “still in the hospital on the ventilator fighting for his life.”
“We need prayers for his recovery! Keep those prayers coming!!” she wrote.