A New York-based attorney has become the go-to representative for families who want to treat their COVID-stricken loved ones with a livestock medication that doctors aren't sure is effective.
Ralph Lorigo hadn't even heard of ivermectin, an antiparasitic medicine commonly used in horses, until January, but he has in recent months convinced courts to allow hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients with the medication that's become known as "horse paste," reported The Daily Beast.
"While I certainly believe in the medical profession, what I've seen here is that the bottom line is what's trumping what I used to believe was the Hippocratic oath," Lorigo told the website.
The attorney argues that "Big Pharma" is turning desperate families away from ivermectin, which was first promoted by doctors connected with the group called Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, and Lorigo says his arguments before each court are essentially the same for every case.
"We have a patient who is on a ventilator and whose chances of survival are no better than 40 percent and in some cases as low as 20 percent," Lorigo said. "Why not?"
But doctors say there's little evidence that ivermectin works as a coronavirus treatment and may discourage the vaccine-hesitant from getting inoculated against the deadly virus.
"Hospitals are dealing with the unvaccinated COVID-19 patients at a very high pace," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, "and then you're going to burden them by filing a lawsuit or creating legal problems over them trying to provide the best care for these people who chose not to be vaccinated and who are now crushing their hospitals?"
Patients who take ivermectin are often being treated with other medications with more proven results, and Adalja said those positive outcomes can be misleading.
"I think that anytime someone hears about some miraculous recovery, or even that someone got better with ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine or whatever it might have been, it takes on a life of its own," the doctor said.
Lorigo disputed criticism from Adalja and other doctors who say he's "capitalizing" off of desperate clients, saying he takes clients at a "substantially reduced" hourly rate to help families who have exhausted all other options.
"I can't in good conscience turn away from these people who are calling me crying because they've got a loved one who is about to die," he said. "I can't turn my back on these people."
However, Timothy Brewer, an epidemiology professor at UCLA who treats COVID-19 patients as a physician, strongly disputed the attorney's claims that profit kept doctors like him from using ivermectin -- and he resented the court's intrusion on sound medical practice.
"In general, whenever the courts try to practice medicine, it usually doesn't work out well for anyone involved," Brewer said, adding that Lorigo's "why not?" argument made no sense medically. "That's not practicing medicine -- that's voodoo."