Almost 100 Alaska doctors have signed a letter asking the State Medical Board to investigate the behavior of local doctors who have publicly advocated the use of unproven COVID-19 treatments during the latest and deadliest wave of virus.
“We are writing out of concern that medical misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment is being spread in Alaska, including by doctors,” said the letter, which was drafted by Merijeanne Moore, a private psychiatrist in Anchorage.
“We hope you will seriously investigate this, as the dissemination of misinformation has been identified as a public health threat by the U.S. Surgeon General, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer and three medical specialties,” the letter said.
Moore said in an interview on Saturday that she wrote the letter amid concerns about a COVID-19 treatment event with prominent vaccine skeptics in Anchorage late last month.
She posted a draft of the letter to a local doctors’ Facebook group and quickly gained support. “There are probably close to 100 signatories right now,” she said.
Among the names were a range of hospital doctors, physicians and surgeons from a wide variety of medical specialties, Moore said, noting that more doctors could sign up in the coming days.
She plans to submit the letter Tuesday before the State Medical Board meeting, which includes a public comment section.
A ‘serious concern’
At the “Alaska Early Treatment Medical Summit,” held last month at the ChangePoint church in Alaska, doctors, mostly from the Lower 48, were criticized by many in the medical community for questioning the efficacy of vaccines and treatments. advocates that are widely regarded as unproven, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
Two doctors in Anchorage spoke at the event: Ilona Farr, a primary care physician who said she is one of 24 doctors in the state who have prescribed ivermectin to COVID-19 patients, and Hillside Family Medicine co-founder John Nolte, who introduced himself at the event as the lead organizer, explaining that he was meeting some of the other attendees at an out-of-state conference and inviting them to come to Alaska to speak.
The summit consisted of two sessions, one aimed at medical providers and another aimed at the general public. The event was attended by about 1,200 people, according to Michael Chambers, who said he was the ticket coordinator and one of the organizers.
Moore’s letter calls the involvement of local physicians in the event detrimental and a “serious concern,” citing a statement from the American Boards of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics describing “the provision of misinformation about a deadly disease” as ” unethical, unprofessional and dangerous.” The Federation of State Medical Boards also said doctors who spread misinformation about COVID-19 risk jeopardizing their medical license or face other disciplinary action from state medical boards, adding that sharing inaccurate vaccine information “threatens to further erode public confidence in the medical profession and all at-risk patients.”
Attempts to reach Farr and Nolte at their office on Saturday afternoon failed.
One of the signatories to the letter is Dr. Leslie Gonsette, an internist and member of Providence’s executive committee, testified at an Anchorage Assembly meeting in September about what she saw in the hospital’s COVID-19 ward, which was then overwhelmed.
Gonsette said in an interview that she has seen firsthand the deadly consequences of vaccine misinformation caused by the illness and deaths of unvaccinated patients diagnosed with COVID-19. She said she was particularly concerned about the public participation of the Anchorage doctors in the event.
“It’s very shocking to see the very people who are supposed to care for our community push through this agenda and indirectly even cause deaths,” Gonsette said.
Moore said she believed “it is the job of the medical board to investigate the claims made at the summit”.
The Alaska State Medical Board is made up of eight members appointed by the governor, including five physicians, one physician assistant, and two people with no direct financial interest in health care.
According to an online roster, there are currently two vacancies and all current members have been appointed by Republican Administration Mike Dunleavy.
The potential to deceive
Speakers at the October event included infectious disease researcher Dr. Robert Malone, who describes himself as the inventor of the mRNA vaccines, when in fact “the path to mRNA vaccines evolved over more than 30 years from the work of hundreds of researchers,” according to a September article in the journal Nature.
Another presenter, Dr. Ryan Cole, is the subject of a state medical board investigation request by the Idaho Medical Association to make “numerous public statements in 2020 and 2021, regarding COVID-19 that are at major odds with the generally accepted medical treatment of COVID -19 and not meeting the community standard of care.”
Malone and others urged attendees not to vaccinate children or recovered COVID-19 patients against the virus, contrary to state and federal health officials who say the risks of the vaccine are much lower than the risks of the virus. virus and its potential for long-term medical care problems.
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, speaking at the summit, called the presenters’ findings “the best science available.”
In an unsigned statement posted to the Hillside Family Medicine website the day after the conference, clinic administrators wrote that “Dr. Nolte’s involvement in the conference was aimed at educating people about the importance of early treatment of COVID-19 and keeping people out of the hospital.”
dr. Tom Hennessy, an epidemiologist at the UAA College of Health, said in a recent interview that he was concerned about the negative effects he believes could be caused by an “early intervention” event that does not advocate vaccination against COVID-19.
The vast majority of Alaskans who were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 during the most recent wave have not been vaccinated. These are people who “missed the opportunity to get the primary prevention that we know works,” Hennessy said.
“So I think there could be potential harm from a lot of talk about alternative therapies and very fringe ideas about where COVID came from, and people go to a place where they inherently distrust authority, and therefore distrust the vaccine” that millions of Americans have received, Hennessy said.
According to state data, in Alaska through September, unvaccinated people died from COVID-19 at 11.9 times as many as fully vaccinated people. September and October 2021 have been the deadliest months of the pandemic so far.
“If people rely on sources of information that aren’t credible, that don’t come from a fact-based perspective, they can be misled. The general public can be misled, and that can lead to harm and that’s what worries me most,” Hennessy said.
Few reprimands in other states
There are few examples of state medical boards revoking licenses when medical professionals prescribe unapproved COVID-19 treatments or share misinformation.
In Washington, a physician assistant’s license was revoked after more than a dozen complaints were filed against him for prescribing ivermectin to patients as a COVID-19 treatment.
In Oregon, his license was revoked in September with Dr. Steven Arthur LaTulippe after ignoring COVID-19 mandates, told his patients masks don’t work and prescribed too many opioids, The Oregonian reported.
In San Francisco, Dr. Thomas Cowan voluntarily relinquished his medical license to the California medical board more than a year after he claimed in a viral online video that 5G technology caused COVID-19, according to reporting by Cal Matters.
There are growing calls, especially among national medical groups, for state medical boards to discipline medical professionals who spread misinformation or disinformation amid the global pandemic.
Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, described the devastating effects of the spread of misinformation about the virus in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post.
She described an unvaccinated patient who had spent hundreds on online remedies and “suffered not only from the virus, but because of the deadly combination of misinformation and misinformation in a broken healthcare system, in a country of broken trust.”
“I found myself exhausted as I sat there with him, humiliated by this virus and acutely aware of how much work we still have to do,” she wrote.