National | Novel Coronavirus / COVID-19

‘No reasonable excuse to import ivermectin’ - Anti-vax Murupara GP told

Murupara GP Dr Bernard Conlon. Photo: Supplied / LDR

Murupara GP Dr Bernard Conlon has likened treating his patients without access to ivermectin to entering a boxing ring with one hand tied behind his back.

Judge Robert Spear has declined his application to have medicines imported from India returned to him, after they were seized at the border by Medsafe.

Between 15 September and 19 October last year, Dr Conlon imported 12,100 12mg tablets of ivermectin, 2200 6mg tablets of ivermectin and 3400 10mg tablets of melatonin from companies in India across nine separate consignments. On 9 November, the Medsafe investigation and enforcement team seized the medicines. Dr Conlon applied to Rotorua District Court for the seizure to be disallowed and the medicine returned to him.

During a hearing in March before Judge Spears, Dr Conlon contended that there had been a "notably poor uptake" among his patients of the Ministry of Health's "singular reliance on a novel gene therapy inoculation" - a reference to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, putting this down to a "deep distrust" of central government administration.

He said he was motivated to import the medicines to assist him to provide "effective support to patients who may present with symptoms of the current Sars-CoV-2 virus".

In his reserved judgement, Judge Spear noted that Dr Conlon has been practising in Murupara since 1991, and his medical practice served nearly 4000 patients over a widespread and remote district, comprised of 94 percent Māori.

He said Dr Conlon was a highly qualified doctor from Queens University of Belfast and that prior to settling in New Zealand, he provided locum GP services in Ireland and Australia, including time with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

He noted Dr Conlon's sincerity in his desire to provide affordable medication for patients with Covid-19 symptoms, as his motivation to import the medicines.

Judge Spears said Dr Conlon based this belief in the efficacy of the use of ivermectin and melatonin against the virus "with reference to papers of certain authors". However, Medsafe referred to the Cochrane Review that post-dates the work of the authors mentioned by Dr Conlon, which concluded that no evidence had been found to support the use of ivermectin for treating or preventing Covid-19.

Medsafe also referred to the recommendation of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, of which Dr Conlon is a fellow, that ivermectin is not to be used in the treatment of Covid-19.

Analysis of the imported medicines by Crown research institute ESR showed a disparity between the strength of the medicine and what was stated on the manufacturer's certificate. Medsafe asserted that Dr Conlon would have had limited access to testing facilities and that any such testing by a competent laboratory would have increased his costs to the point that his "belief that he would have been able to prescribe the imported ivermectin on a cost-effective basis would have been illusory".

The case was complicated by Dr Conlon's interim suspension from medical practice by the Medical Council of New Zealand, while an investigation was carried out into comments he made publicly around informed consent for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for pregnant women and children. The suspension had since been revoked on the basis that Dr Conlon abide by "good medical practice and national peer reviewed guidelines with respect to the management of patients with Covid-19"

"My understanding is that, by the undertaking and particularly the restriction specified, Dr Conlon is precluded from prescribing ivermectin as part of his management of patients with Covid-19," Judge Spears said.

He further concluded that Dr Conlon was prohibited from prescribing or administering the medicine in the circumstances that applied when he imported it.

"That being so, he did not have a reasonable excuse to import the medicine."

"No matter how sincere Dr Conlon might be in his belief that ivermectin may be beneficial in the treatment of his patients presenting with Covid-19 symptoms … the act expressly prohibits him, and indeed any other authorised prescriber, from prescribing any new medicine, off label or otherwise."

Dr Conlon, who has refused to be vaccinated with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine himself, told the Beacon that it was a "most disappointing result'.

"Having used ivermectin myself when I came down with Covid 19, I can personally testify to its dramatic effectiveness. Not knowing what variants may present in the future, I am disappointed that my patients will not have this option available to them."

He said his treatment style for the past 30 years has been to treat his patients as he would wish to be treated. "For Covid-19 this will not be the case," he said.

"It has been a great professional relief that the 1100 -plus patients that got Covid-19 in March in our practice were managed successfully with an alternative early treatment protocol that was tremendously effective, such that we had no deaths and only six hospitalisations.

"It is my apprehension that this will not be the case for future waves. I now know what it feels like entering a boxing ring with one hand tied behind my back."

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