BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — An elderly Cheektowaga woman continues to recover form COVID-19 at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst after a judge ruled that an experimental drug be used to treat her.
Judith Smemthiewicz, 80, was placed on a ventilator in late December.
Initially doctors gave her one dose of the controversial drug Ivermetic, and she improved.
“Within 48 hours, she's off the ventilator, out of the ICU, onto a COVID floor,” explained Ralph Lorigo, family lawyer.
But her condition worsened, and just days after the first dose doctors placed her back on a ventilator.
Lorigo said the hospital refused to give her more doses of the drug.
That’s when he drew up court papers and included a letter from the woman’s doctor who wrote how she improved "dramatically" after the first dose.
State Supreme Court Judge Henry Nowak ordered the hospital to administer the drug, but the hospital initially refused.
“I say to him — I’ve got a court order — we've relieved you of liability. My people will sign a release and I go through the history of this lady — they still object,” Lorigo explained.
There is debate about using Ivermectin to treat COVID.
The FDA approved drug is used mostly to treat children for head lice. But it has been effective for some COVID patients.
“Some studies report a benefit — some studies do not,” remarked Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of Infectious Disease, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo.
Dr. Russo tells us the drug has received significant attention.
“Ivermectin is believed to both anti-inflammatory properties and potentially anti-viral against the new Coronavirus,” Dr. Russo noted.
Lorigo said the hospital finally agreed to give Smemthiewicz the drug again.
“And the judge finally decides that look — the family physician ordered it — the hospital has to give it to her — that's his order and they have to continue it,” said Lorigo.
Kaleida Health, operator of Millard Suburban, issued the following written statement:
“We are aware of this family's position. Federal privacy laws prevent us from disclosing details on the patient's hospital stay. Moreover, as this is also a legal matter, we will not comment any further."
Right now, Dr. Russo said there is not enough data for the National Institute of Health to recommend Ivermetic for treating COVID.
“It’s possible that it could actually make treatment less effective. It’s critical to learn how the drugs work together. It could be a slippery slope. We already do t have some treatments that are effective for the treatment of COVID, such as steroids and Remdesivir,” Dr. Russo remarked.
But Lorigo said Smemthiewicz is living proof that it works. She’s now off the ventilator and expected to be released to rehab soon.
He said the lesson here is the importance of health advocacy — in this case from her family, her doctor, and a judge.
“And because of that — this woman is alive today and on her way to being healthy,” Lorigo stated, holding up a photo of the woman.