An Irondequoit man hospitalized with COVID-19 is seeking a court order that would require doctors at Unity Hospital to administer medication outside of normal treatment protocol for the virus.
Michael Gangemi, 63, wants to be treated with two prescription medications, Ivermectin and Fluvoxamine. Both are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but for other ailments.
Ivermectin is used to treat parasitic infections while Fluvoxamine is prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, court papers filed on behalf of Gangemi say both drugs have been used successfully in reducing the impact of COVID-19.
“They have been proven to be effective in improving COVID-19 patients and we are trying to get him the treatment before his condition worsens,” said Helene Maichle of Boston, one of the lawyers representing Gangemi.
Maichle is also Gangemi’s sister-in-law, as is the second lawyer in the case, Danielle Maichle of Buffalo.
Gangemi was hospitalized July 30 because of COVID-19 symptoms. On Aug. 3, his lawyers filed papers in state Supreme Court in Monroe County, asking for an order compelling doctors to grant his choice of treatment in conjunction with widely accepted forms of treatment.
Courts have heard at least three similar cases in the past eight months. In January, doctors at Rochester General Hospital were required to provide Ivermectin to Glenna Dickinson of Albion after court intervention. Doctors at a Buffalo hospital were required to treat Judith Smentkiewicz of Cheektowaga with the drug after a lawsuit was filed. John Swanson of Stafford was given Ivermectin in United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia after a court order was obtained on his behalf.
The families of each patient said in various media reports that Ivermectin helped their loved ones recover when other treatments were ineffective. All three were in far more dire conditions than Gangemi, Helene Maichle said.
“But our concern, especially with the Delta variant, is that his condition could change on a dime,” Maichle said. “He’s 63, he’s retired and he has health conditions; not many, but he has a condition.
“Because the risk of death is quite real with this virus, they (doctors) might say he is stable but the reality is, with many COVID patients, their condition can change abruptly and dramatically. He should be able to elect to be given this medication.”
An affidavit filed in the case by Gangemi’s wife, Yvonne Maichle, says he suffers from thalasemia minor, a genetic blood disorder that makes him immunocompromised and more susceptible to infections.
“I am very worried that without the medications, lvermectin and Fluvoxamine, my husband’s condition from COVID-19 will suddenly deteriorate and I will lose him,” Yvonne Maichle wrote in her affidavit. “I want him to have the choice to receive these medications and have them available to him during his hospitalization at Unity Hospital. I don’t want to find myself in a situation, out of my mind, at the 11h hour, as my husband’s organs are shutting down and he is placed in a medically-included coma and intubated, begging for mercy from this court.”
A lawyer representing Unity Hospital and Rochester Regional Health is asking that the court hear medical arguments before any decision is made.
“The relief requested by petitioner (Gangemi) is to compel these highly skilled medical professionals to administer medication in an off-label manner which is not generally accepted treatment protocols for COVID-19,” Meghann Roehl of the Buffalo law firm Roach, Brown, McCarthy & Gruber wrote in a letter to the court.
“Further, the application submitted is not supported by medical opinions and appears to be a frivolous use of the court’s time, especially in light of the fact that other more efficacious treatment options are available.”
Maichle said Gangemi will absolve the doctors and hospital system of any liability should there be an adverse reaction from Ivermectin or Fluvoxamine.
“We’re asking this to be allowed in conjunction with other therapies,” she said. “Michael understands this is an experimental treatment. He has said he will hold them blameless if he becomes ill or would die.
“But we believe this can help prevent a deterioration of his condition or improve his condition and allow him to be discharged.”
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