Ivermectin, a drug approved by the FDA to treat intestinal diseases and roundworms in humans, has become popular among vaccine skeptics as alleged alternative treatment for COVID-19, despite a lack of evidence that it’s effective in treating the disease. Some people are ingesting a version of the drug intended for horses, which is poisonous to humans. | Image from TajPharmaImages, Wikimedia Commons
A metro Detroit doctor is prescribing ivermectin to patients with COVID-19, despite the state, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly urging against it.
Ivermectin is usually used to treat head lice or parasitic worms in humans, horses and other livestock, but misinformation fueled by right-wing figures and people who are anti-vaccination has some convinced that it can treat COVID-19.
Dr. James Lewerenz, who runs a private practice, Lewerenz Medical Center Longevity Health Institute in Rochester and Madison Heights, prescribes ivermectin for those who have tested positive for COVID-19, the Advance has confirmed.
“If patients do call and ask for it, we tell them that we don’t prescribe it unless they have a positive COVID test and they are active patients in our office,” said Lewerenz Medical Center Office Manager Susan Foote.
The CDC issued a health advisory last week advising clinicians and public health practitioners “be aware that ivermectin is not currently authorized or approved by FDA for treatment of COVID-19. [National Institutes of Health] has also determined that there are currently insufficient data to recommend ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), who tweeted Friday that Michigan should investigate ivermectin as a treatment to COVID-19, is among several Republican officials to cite unproven data around the anti-parasitic medication.
Lewerenz did not respond to a request for comment on why he is prescribing ivermectin, despite federal and state medical groups advising against it.
The Lewerenz Medical Center website states the practice offers a supplements shop, restorative treatments, hormone replacement therapy, weight management, anti-aging, preventative medicine and “personalized care for VIPs.”
Lewerenz is quoted on the site, saying, “We are on the threshold of a new paradigm; for the first time in history we can apply advanced technologies for early detection, prevention and even reversal of disease. This is evidence-based medicine!”
The site tells visitors: “Rest assured! At Longevity Health Institute we are taking every precaution possible regarding the Coronavirus. Our highest priority is the safety and health of you, your family, our staff, and our doctors. Our office has been practicing the highest level of cleanliness, sanitation, and sterilization since opening several years ago. We have always been, and still are, rigorously following and exceeding all infection control, CDC, and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] guidelines. As part of our licensure, we have to regularly renew our knowledge of these guidelines. In light of the current situation, we are redoubling our efforts.”
The website said he received his degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (now known as A.T. Still University) in Kirksville, Mo.
The practice’s site also states that Lewerenz is an active staff physician at Beaumont Hospital, one of the largest hospital systems in Southeast Michigan, among other affiliations the Advance could not confirm, including Michigan State University and St. John Health.
However, Beaumont Health spokesperson Maryanne MacLeod said Lewerenz is not employed by Beaumont and does not provide inpatient care at Beaumont hospitals. He is an affiliate provider, which means his patients are able to utilize Beaumont resources.
“Beaumont does not permit the use of ivermectin for COVID patients,” MacLeod said.
Beaumont also has a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti, a family physician in Lansing and Michigan state lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, told the Advance earlier this week “if physicians are recommending harmful treatments to people, that’s a violation of their Hippocratic Oath.”
“And if patients are directly being harmed by something that doctors are telling them to do, then doctors could have their license threatened in court,” Bhatti said.
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