A lawsuit centered on pharmacists’ refusals to fill prescriptions for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as a remedy to combat COVID-19 has been dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled that the refusals were not illegal.
The arguments in the suit were primarily centered on the right to self-determination, and U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz ruled that the arguments were wrong.
“It is one thing to say that a patient has the right to refuse medical treatment. It is quite another thing to say that a patient has the right to force a medical provider to provide a particular type of medical treatment against his or her professional judgment. As far as the Court knows, not a single state has recognized such a right,” he said.
Schlitz, a George W. Bush appointee, argued that the conduct of the pharmacists who refused to fill the prescriptions were not “extreme and outrageous,” the threshold for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The judge also said, due in part to the time when the refusals happened, that “every major medical authority and government agency that had addressed the issue had said that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID‐19.”
Even if the claims made by the plaintiffs were plausible, the action was required to be dismissed due to their failure to provide expert testimony. An extension for providing such testimony was turned down because the suit did not outline such claims.
“We appreciate the Court dismissing the Complaint. Our pharmacists have exercised their professional judgment with these prescriptions, including refusing to fill them, and we stand behind them on this issue,” Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said in a statement.
Both Walmart and supermarket chain Hy-Vee, were at the center of the lawsuit after William Salier, a Minnesota resident, contracted COVID-19 in October 2021, experiencing severe symptoms. While he attempted to obtain monoclonal antibodies from the state, he was denied, and attempts to obtain antibodies or ivermectin from a clinic in Iowa were rejected.
Salier turned to Dr. Mollie James who saw him in a telehealth session and wrote multiple prescriptions, including one for ivermectin. The prescriptions were sent to a Walmart in Minnesota.
However, a pharmacist called Karla Salier, William Salier’s wife, and informed her that Walmart would not fill the prescription because ivermectin “was not appropriate to treat COVID-19 patients,” the lawsuit alleges.
When Karla Salier protested, the pharmacist “proceeded to lecture her about how ivermectin was dangerous for her husband despite his doctor’s prescription, and he again refused to fill the prescription,” it says.
In spite of James calling the same Walmart herself, they refused to fulfill the prescription, and when Karla Salier fell ill with COVID-19, James prescribed her ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, but the same Walmart refused yet again.
A Hy-Vee supermarket in the same town, Albert Lea, also rejected efforts to obtain the drugs, though the pharmacist there did fill other prescriptions from James.
It was only after they took a form of ivermectin recommended for animal use that they claim their symptoms began to rapidly improve.
Walmart, in the granted motion to dismiss, said that Minnesota law does not confer the right to self-determination, that the Saliers did not adequately prove they suffered severe mental distress and that its pharmacist complied with professional norms.
The defendant noted that the Iowa clinic also declined to give ivermectin to William Salier to back up their case.
“The fact that other medical professionals acting independently took similar action suggests that Walmart’s conduct was not wrongful at all, and at the very least belies any claim that it was ‘so atrocious that it passe[d] the boundaries of decency and [was] utterly intolerable to the civilized community,’” it said, quoting a previous court ruling, adding that the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy said that a pharmacist could refuse to fill or refill a prescription “if, in the pharmacist’s professional judgment, there is a question as to the drug’s safety and/or efficacy.”
The corporation also said it did not interfere with the couple’s contact with James.
“The common law does not permit two parties to use a contract to impose duties on a stranger to the contract. Yet the Saliers allege nothing more than a passive refusal to assist. Moreover, even if the Walmart pharmacist’s mere refusal to fill prescriptions could be deemed a sufficient interference with a contract, the Saliers’ complaint itself demonstrates that it was not ‘without justification,’ as the tort requires. Because the pharmacist’s refusal to fill the prescriptions rested on his independent professional judgment, as Minnesota law permits, his conduct was justified,” the motion stated.
The Saliers are considering an appeal, arguing that the judge was “hostile” to their arguments and that he wondered aloud why anyone would do something that the CDC recommended not doing.
“I think our chances in the Eighth Circuit are far better than they were before this particular judge,” Holsten said, adding,“We found him just extremely hostile to our position.”
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