By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Oct. 1, 2021)
The disheartening news struck like a thunderbolt. It was a shot across the bow from the regional medical establishment. It came one week after our CMO issued a similar warning. The St. Lucian Medical and Dental Board summoned Dr. Gilbertha St. Rose to a disciplinary hearing, to defend for advocating and dispensing Ivermectin to patients. As early as last May, 10, Jamaican doctors with a combined medical practice experience of 400-plus years recommended the use of Ivermectin.
“I am trying to save lives,” Dr. St. Rose said, “When I discovered Ivermectin, I brought it to them, and they rejected it, and I have had a back and forth with the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Officer trying to convince them it can be used, but I have the welfare of my patients, so I continue to use it, and I have been educating the public about it, so they thought I am not obeying what the ministry wants to use, so that is why they want to take this action against me.”
Dr. St. Rose is accused of: 1. Prescribing Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 without authorisation; 2. encouraging its use; 3 conducting an observational clinical trial of Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID without approval.
Ivermectin is on the World Health Organization (WHO) schedule of essential medicines. It has been used to cure millions of persons of painful and life-threatening parasitic diseases. The WHO says the current evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID is inconclusive. It never said Ivermectin is not safe. It has been safely used to treat other illnesses. The WHO recommends that the drug only be used within clinical trials.
Dr. St. Rose, in her defence, said, “It is not approved for COVID yet, but it is an approved drug for other conditions like parasitic infections, so we have a concept which is called ‘off label’ which happens with lots of drugs that were initially approved for a particular condition (and) when it is seen to be effective for another condition, is used by the physician for that purpose, and this is what I have been doing with Ivermectin.”
Many drugs are repurposed and used to treat the illness for which they were not initially designed. Most repurposed drugs are off-patent and efficiently manufactured, and much cheaper than drugs still on patents. Many doctors worldwide, especially in India and other parts of South Asia, have sung the praises of Ivermectin both as a preventative and curative agent in the successful fight against COVID.
The current struggle against COVID-19 must be seen and analysed in its historical context and the role of medicine. Across the world, there is a significant emerging “Right To Try Movement” which demands the use of emerging, repurposed or experimental drugs if they offer some hope to seriously ill people.
On Jan. 3, 2018, the US Congress passed into force a “Right To Try” law whose short title reads, “An Act to authorise the use of unapproved medical products by patients diagnosed with a terminal illness”. The law requires that the doctor agrees not to be compensated by the drug manufacturer and gain the patient’s written informed consent.
From time beyond mind, the bedrock principles of medical care and treatment are “first to do no harm and informed consent”. Proof of this fundamental principle was found in the teachings of the ancient African scientist Imhotep — the world’s earliest recorded multi genius, known for his triumphs in mathematics, physics, engineering, architecture and medicine. He designed and constructed the great pyramids.
In Book 1 of his Corpus, titled Epidemics and written in BC 440, Hippocrates says, “Practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient.”
A record from AD 245 had doctors vow, “I will abstain from all intentional wrongdoing and harm.”
In 1783, the German Jewish physician Markus Herz, drawing on the ancient Jewish traditions, proclaimed the oath of Maimonides for pharmacists and physicians:
“The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice nor miserliness nor a thirst for glory or an excellent reputation engages my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children.
“May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.
“Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense, and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements. Today he can discover his errors of yesterday, and tomorrow, he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today.
In 1948, in its Declaration of Geneva, the World Medical Association committed to standing strictly behind the principles of “utmost respect for human life from the beginning”.
By 1968, the American code of medical ethics called on doctors and pharmacists to:
* apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of over treatment;
* remember that there is an art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug;
* not be ashamed to say “I know not”, nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery;
* respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems, are not disclosed to me that the world may know; most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death; bove all, I must not play at God;
* remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability; I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
Against this long and cherished history of commitment to medical care, what is driving this persecution of doctors and the censor of medical information? What motivates the international medical establishment to adopt blind faith rather than enterprising scientific enquiry?
In this era of viruses and variants, one can only hope that the common sense variant soon takes hold and grips the minds of men.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].