Discover more from RESCUE with Michael Capuzzo
The Drug That Cracked Covid (Part 2)
As a Buffalo grandmother lay dying, doctors gave her the NIH's only approved treatment—a $3,000 big pharma drug shown to confer no mortality benefit.
As Judy lay dying in Millard Fillmore hospital, her doctors did not have Ivermectin in their treatment bag. But they did have Remdesivir, and they gave a dose to Judy. Manufactured by Gilead Sciences, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Remdesivir costs $3,000 a dose. It is the only anti-viral treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients approved by the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel, and as a result is a standard of COVID-19 care in many hospitals, even though many doctors say it doesn’t work, and the WHO recommends against it. It has been shown in studies to have no mortality benefit for COVID-19 patients. (Coincidentally, seven members of the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel acknowledge in financial disclosures that they have received research support or consultant payments from Gilead, or sit on the advisory board of the $60 billion company). As The Washington Post reported, “Remdesivir may not cure coronovirus, but it’s on track to make billions for Gilead.”
Remdesivir had “absolutely no effect” on his mother, Michael Smentkiewicz says. But Michael refused to accept the reality that nothing could be done. “I’m stubborn, I’m pushy, I’m the loudest guy in the room,” he says. Anguished that they couldn’t enter the hospital to see his mother and comfort her, Michael, Michelle, their families, and friends—eight of them in all—spent New Year’s Eve standing outside the hospital with their hands on the brick wall under her window, praying for her recovery. They linked arms and sang and called out her name to the high square window lit against the dark. “We felt we needed to be on that ground, blessing the doctors, blessing my mother, staking our claim for healing,” Michael says. “My wife said people live on love,” he says, “and they feel you.”
New Year’s Day came. The calendar turned, but Judy was the same. In the morning Michael went by himself to the hospital parking lot and shouted into the cold gray air up toward his mother’s window. “We’re here for you!” he cried. “We’re not ready for you to go! We’re here fighting! We’re not leaving town until you get out of the hospital.”
But by now the Smentkiewiczs believed they needed a miracle. Michael put out a wider appeal to the universe, calling upon some fifty of his “prayer brothers” around the country to pray for his mother’s life. Thoughts and prayers from a wide network centered on the room in the small hospital in Williamsville, New York.
At 11:35 a.m. on New Year’s Day, with the annus horribilis of 2020 finally gone and buried, the universe delivered its answer. That was the morning Jan, Michael’s mother-in-law in Atlanta, who had also been praying for Judy’s life, picked up her phone and thought, “This is how the Lord works in my life. There on my phone is this video and the words ‘Ivermectin’ and ‘COVID.”’
Jan clicked on the link. A large, intense physician, six-foot-one inches tall and lineman-wide with horn-rim glasses wrapping a bald head, was being interviewed on Fox 10 News Now, KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, Arizona. It was Pierre Kory, president and chief medical officer of the FLCCC, who had testified that morning to the U.S. Homeland Security Government Affairs Committee in Washington that he and his colleagues had discovered a drug that could swiftly end the global pandemic and return life on Earth to normal.
Kory is a COVID fixer. He went to COVID-19-wracked hospitals during outbreaks, when patients were dying and doctors were overwhelmed, with the mission to stop the dying and restore order to the ICU. When the pandemic hit, Kory helped prepare the university hospital in Madison to handle a forecast surge. Then he went east to help save New York City when the death rate exceeded that of the medieval plague, taking over as the ICU attending chief at the main COVID ICU at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center.
“I’m a lung specialist, I’m an ICU doctor. My city is being destroyed by the worst pandemic in a century, and it’s a lung disease, all my friends, the ICU chiefs who trained me and the ones I trained, they’re going out of their minds, people are dying. Are you kidding me? I went to New York to save lives.”
Kory is the son of two New York intellectuals, one a Jewish radiologist who survived the Holocaust, the other a French PhD linguist. He is a New York liberal, renowned pulmonary critical care specialist, award-winning professor and researcher, and a big, brawling, blunt-spoken, and deeply idealistic physician whose lectures are famously a river of eloquence until he gets worked up. Then out comes a torrent of scientific data roiling with moral outrage against medical institutions that turn their backs on human suffering. “I’m a New Yorker,” he says. “I tell it like it is.”
In an impassioned, nine-minute testimony, Kory implored the Senate and the NIH to read his scientific review, later published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, that presented a “mountain of data” showing that Ivermectin stopped all phases of COVID-19. The peer reviewers, including three senior career scientists, two at the Food and Drug Administration, supported Kory’s conclusion that Ivermectin “should be systemically and globally adopted…for both the prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.”
It was Tuesday, December 8, and the news was bleak. On CNN Dr. Fauci asked the American people not to get together for Christmas or Hanukkah to prevent “a surge upon a surge” after Thanksgiving. There were 286,189 deaths already and new cases and deaths were reaching a “frightening peak” and accelerating faster than ever, ABC News reported. “The end of the pandemic is in sight,” Fauci said. “The vaccine…will end the pandemic and return us to as near normal or normal as possible, but we have to do our part right now.”
Then came the bright, confident voice of the big physician from the Midwest saying that science had discovered a way for schoolchildren to go back to school and workers to work, and for families to put a star on the Christmas tree and candles on the menorah with new hope.
“We have a solution to this crisis,” he said. “There is a drug that is proving to be of miraculous impact,” Kory said. “When I say miracle, I do not use that term lightly. And I don’t want to be sensationalized when I say that. It’s a scientific recommendation based on mountains of data that has emerged in the last three months…from many centers and countries around the world showing the miraculous effectiveness of Ivermectin. It basically obliterates transmission of this virus. If you take it, you will not get sick.”
The scientific evidence was overwhelming, he said. The data from twenty-seven studies, sixteen of them randomized controlled trials, demonstrated, with highly statistically significant, overwhelmingly positive, consistent, and reproducible rates, that people who got sick with COVID-19 were far more likely to quickly get better at home when they took Ivermectin. They didn’t go to the hospital. Housemates of people with COVID-19 who took Ivermectin didn’t get infected. People who got moderately ill in hospitals didn’t go to the ICU; they got better quicker and went home faster. Hospitals didn’t get overrun. The drug even saved elderly, critically ill COVID-19 patients from dying compared to those routinely dying elsewhere. Six prevention studies showed Ivermectin reduced the risk of getting COVID-19 by 92.5 percent, superior to many vaccines. Dr. Hector Carvallo, a professor of medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, gave 788 doctors and other health care workers in three medical centers weekly Ivermectin prophylaxis, with a control group of 407 doctors and others who didn’t get the drug. In the control group 236 people, or 58 percent, “had become ill with COVID.” Among the 788 who got Ivermectin, “no infections were recorded.”
“We have a solution to this crisis,” Dr. Kory said. “There is a drug that is proving to be of miraculous impact.”
Kory had been working with a senior data scientist in Boston named Juan Chamie, who discovered that Ivermectin dropped case and death rates off the cliff in numerous regions around the world. The huge Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which with 232 million people would be the fifth biggest country in the world, mass distributed Ivermectin to 200 million people last fall and by winter was reporting few if any deaths in the country. The state is still not suffering as badly as its neighbors in that crisis-stricken country. In Peru, tens of thousands of rural residents in eight states often took animal-grade Ivermectin—some in the form of de-worming horse paste—through a large, door-to-door humanitarian mission because doctors and health ministers in the capital city of Lima refused to give the “peasants” the human medicine. But cases and deaths plummeted in the eight rural states to pre-pandemic levels, with no reported harm from the medicine’s impurities, while they soared in Lima, where Ivermectin was not dispensed amongst the ivory towers of medicine.
Kory’s data was corroborated by Dr. Andrew Hill, a renowned University of Liverpool pharmacologist and independent medical researcher, and the senior World Health Organization/UNITAID investigator of potential treatments for COVID-19. Hill’s team of twenty-three researchers in twenty-three countries had reported that, after nine months of looking for a COVID-19 treatment and finding nothing but failures like Remdesivir—“we kissed a lot of frogs”—Ivermectin was the only thing that worked against COVID-19, and its safety and efficacy were astonishing—“blindingly positive,” Hill said, and “transformative.” Ivermectin, the WHO researcher concluded, reduced COVID-19 morality by 81 percent.
Kory nearly broke down pleading with the NIH to review the “immense amounts of data that shows that Ivermectin must be implemented and implemented now,” and reverse its negative recommendation of August 27, when no data was available.
“We have 100,000 patients in the hospital right now dying,” he cried out to the committee. “I’m a lung specialist, I’m an ICU specialist. I’ve cared for more dying COVID patients than anyone can imagine. They’re dying because they can’t breathe. They can’t breathe…and I watch them every day, they die….I can’t keep doing this. If you look at my manuscript, and if I have to go back to work next week, any further deaths are going to be needless deaths, I cannot be traumatized by that. I cannot keep caring for patients when I know they could have been saved by earlier treatment with a drug…that will prevent the hospitalization, and that is Ivermectin.”
Kory’s testimony, titled “I can’t do this anymore” on YouTube, went viral and reached eight million views and counting before being censored by YouTube for “misinformation”; it was the Howard Beale speech that captured the gestalt of a new time. But unlike the fictional newsman in the movie Network who had thousands throwing open their windows with 1970s angst and shouting “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore!” this prophet was real, and many lives and the fates of nations were at stake.
The reaction was explosive and hopeful all over the world, from doctors, nurses, scientists, and civil rights activists; from people watching their loved ones die from COVID-19 and begging for help. Eighty-five-year-old Nobel Prize winner Ōmura in Japan, a legend in microbiology, promptly asked his research team to translate Kory’s paper into Japanese to be placed on his institute website. Thousands of social media fans were moved by Kory’s bravery and the big heart of a doctor who cared about his patients, hailing him as a knight fighting big pharma, big media, big politics, big everything. “Never give up, Pierre Kory!” implored a young woman in Japan. Overnight, the American doctor was a folk hero to great masses of people weary of death and lockdowns and hungry for things not forgotten—the hush of the theater, the clatter of seats in the classroom just before the teacher started, the wonder of human touch—and a prophet to doctors who saw the Hippocratic Oath subsumed by regulators, politicians, and journalists picking COVID-19 drugs if they worked for Wall Street or Washington, whether the doctor thought they worked for the patient or not.
In South Africa, where use of Ivermectin was criminalized, civil rights activists hung posters with Kory’s data urging revolt, and a group of physicians won permission from the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe on January 27, 2021, to treat COVID-19 with Ivermectin; case fatalities dropped in one month from seventy a day to two a day, “and our hospitals are virtually empty,” said Dr. Jackie Stone, who was subsequently taken in for questioning for her use of a controversial drug. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a doctor trained in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was using Kory’s data to persuade the Ministry of Health of Ivermectin’s efficacy and was making a personal appeal to the king. “Thank you for your amazing courage and love for humanity,” he wrote. “You’re a real doctor who is living up to the Hippocratic Oath. All doctors need to follow your example!!”
In Bath, England, Dr. Tess Lawrie, a prominent independent medical researcher who evaluates the safety and efficacy of drugs for the WHO and the National Health Service to set international clinical practice guidelines, read all twenty-seven of the Ivermectin studies Kory cited. “The resulting evidence is consistent and unequivocal,” she announced, and sent a rapid meta-analysis, an epidemiological statistical multi-study review considered the highest form of medical evidence, to the director of the NHS, members of parliament, and a video to Prime Minister Boris Johnson with “the good news…that we now have solid evidence of an effective treatment for COVID-19…” and Ivermectin should immediately “be adopted globally and systematically for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.”
Ignored by British leaders and media, Lawrie convened the day-long streaming BIRD conference—British Ivermectin Recommendation Development—with more than sixty researchers and doctors from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Belgium, Argentina, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Australia, and Japan. They evaluated the drug using the full “evidence-to-decision framework” that is “the gold standard tool for developing clinical practice guidelines” used by the WHO, and reached the conclusion that Ivermectin should blanket the world.
“Most of all you can trust me because I am also a medical doctor, first and foremost,” Lawrie told the prime minster, “with a moral duty to help people, to do no harm, and to save lives. Please may we start saving lives now.” She heard nothing back.
The reaction was explosive and hopeful all over the world…
In Charlottesville, Virginia, Dr. David Chesler, an internist/geriatrician for forty-four years with hundreds of COVID-19 patients in six nursing homes, wrote to Dr. Fauci, telling him essentially that he had found the early treatment Fauci was urgently looking for. Dr. Chesler explained that facing the choice with his elderly COVID-19 patients to “either provide my patients with the standard of care, basically first aid, with Tylenol, oxygen and monitoring, until they became sick enough to be sent to the hospital, or to try something more proactive with the hope of the patients not becoming so ill and then losing their lives,” he had since successfully treated “over 200 high-risk COVID patients” with Ivermectin, many over 100 years old, with none dying or needing “heroic” oxygen support. Fauci never replied.
Everywhere the problem was the same, Kory said. The WHO, NIH, and other public health agencies were suddenly recommending only COVID-19 therapies proven by the “gold standard” of large randomized controlled trials of treatment and placebo groups, which were powerful but had several limiting flaws, including the fact that they took months to complete and cost ten to twenty million dollars that only big pharmaceutical companies could afford. They had thrown out all the other time-tested forms of clinical and scientific medical investigation still taught in all the medical schools, such as observational trials (which had eliminated widespread crib death), case histories, and anecdotes. They also restricted the use of essential off-label and generic drugs with blatant disinformation campaigns that reminded Kory of big tobacco’s efforts to hide the dangers of smoking. In effect, the public health authorities eliminated the full toolbox of essential scientific methods and drugs that doctors use every day, including the most effective early, prophylactic, and late-stage treatments for COVID-19, which were developed by frontline doctors, not pharmaceutical companies.
Kory never tires of reminding critics that the modern Hippocratic Oath, the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki, makes it abundantly clear that all medical research is secondary to the doctor’s clinical judgement in the moment, whether the patient is dying of COVID-19 or giving birth. The doctor is morally compelled to use their best clinical judgement and the “best available evidence” in that instant, not tomorrow or next year when more data is published. As the WMA puts it: “The health of my patient will be my first consideration.” Clearly the medical establishment is now routinely violating that ancient oath, Kory says, and as a result he “feels estranged from most, but not all, of my colleagues.”
In the new world of medicine, the COVID world, he says, “Only big randomized controlled trials by big pharma/big academic medical centers are accepted by big journals, while others are rejected,” while only studies in big journals are accepted by big public health agencies for drug recommendations, and only drugs recommended by big public health agencies “escape media/social media censorship.”
“This leaves you with a system where the only thing that’s considered to have sufficient evidence or proven efficacy is essentially a big new pharmaceutical drug,” he adds. “If it doesn’t come from the mountaintop, it doesn’t exist,” Kory says. “The people on the ground, we cannot do any more science that’s considered credible. We’re discredited as controversial and as promoting unproven therapies and our Facebook groups are shut down, Twitter accounts are locked, YouTube videos are removed and demonetized. It’s really almost totalitarian what’s happening when we’re just well-meaning scientists trying to do the right thing by our patients.”
Unknown to Dr. Kory, a grandmother in Buffalo who would help him change the world was close to death, and just beginning the fight for her life.