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‘A health menace’: Doctors urge medical board to take action against Dr. Ryan Cole’s COVID-19 misinformation

Records obtained from the Washington Medical Commission detail complaints about the Garden City pathologist.

BOISE, Idaho — In five formal complaints against Idaho physician and Central District Health board member Ryan Cole in the state of Washingtondoctors and others say falsehoods he has spread about COVID-19 and the vaccine to prevent it have added to a dangerous storm of misinformation and even contributed to patient deaths.

The complaints about Cole, who runs a diagnostic laboratory in Garden City, were submitted to the Washington Medical Commission between Aug. 28 and Sept. 30 and obtained by KTVB in their entirety on Thursday. Those records also include material submitted as information to support the complaints, and total nearly 300 pages.

Cole, a controversial figure who has referred to the COVID-19 vaccine as a "clot shot" and "needle rape" and falsely claimed it could cause cancer, is licensed as a physician in Idaho, Washington and several other states.

The Idaho Medical Association confirmed it filed a complaint with the Idaho Board of Medicine about Cole, but the Idaho board declined to say whether a formal investigation is underway. The board tells KTVB that formal actions are public record, but medical records, staff reports and investigative materials are confidential and unavailable to any source for review during the investigation.

In an email Friday, the Idaho Board of Medicine spokesperson said currently the board does not have any outstanding formal complaints; formal hearings only happen once formal complaints have been filed by the Board of Medicine.

After receiving records of the complaints filed in Washington, KTVB asked Cole for comment for this story. He did not respond.

The people and organizations who filed the complaints against Cole in Idaho and Washington are asking that his license be revoked.

If the Washington Medical Commission finds Cole has committed unprofessional conduct, possible sanctions may include revocation or suspension of his license.. But Washington state law also provides for a range of other possible sanctions, including restriction or limitation of his practice, requiring that he complete a specific program of remedial education or treatment, monitoring of his practice, censure or reprimand, probation, a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation, or refunding fees that his practice has billed to and collected from patients.

In letters to Cole informing him of the investigations in Washington, the investigator wrote: "When my investigation is complete, a panel of commission members will review it and determine whether to move forward with disciplinary action or close the case without taking further action. A majority of our investigations are closed without further action after this review. If the panel finds evidence of unprofessional conduct, they may take further action.

The complaints

A doctor at the Boise VA wrote in his complaint that Cole is "a major purveyor of misinformation" and called it "amazing" that the physician was continuing to publicly tout debunked information about COVID-19 more than a year into the pandemic.

"Cole is a health menace, abusing his status as a physician to mislead the public," the doctor wrote.

In an October memorandum from the Washington Medical Commission, investigators noted that Cole’s diagnostic lab denies that he sees patients directly.

"Regarding direct patient care, the respondent has publicly stated he is providing ivermectin to patients but when he, the complainant, called Cole Diagnostics, the respondent's practice, their recorded message indicated the respondent does not see patients."

Nonetheless, according to a doctor at Saint Alphonsus, a patient infected with COVID-19 had been prescribed ivermectin by Cole. Ivermectin is an anti-parasite drug that has not been found to have any effectiveness in treating, curing or preventing COVID-19, despite a number of viral online claims to the contrary.

That patient later died, according to the complaint.

At least three other doctors also signed affidavits accompanying a complaint about Cole prescribing ivermectin to patients.

"Some of my patients inform me that they are taking ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. A substantial percentage of them tell me it was prescribed or recommended by Dr. Cole, who they have trusted for medical advice due to his warnings about taking the COVID vaccine or his recorded lectures touting the dangers of the vaccine and the effectiveness of ivermectin," one of the doctors states in their affidavit, referring to patients the doctor sees when they come to a hospital emergency department for treatment of COVID-19.

Another doctor states, "Many of these patients now present with severe COVID-19 and many require hospital admission and critical care services… These patients are quite surprised to learn that ivermectin did not prevent or cure their COVID infection. These patients are unwittingly contributing to the hospital capacity constraints that we are currently facing by relying on disinformation perpetuated by Cole, which not only presents a danger to the health and well-being of the patients, but also our community.”

Both doctors submitted those affidavits – sworn and notarized – in September, the same month crisis standards of care were activated in Idaho.

Cole is certified in anatomic pathology and clinical pathology by The American Board of Pathology, according to the American Medical Association profile included in records accompanying the complaints.

The American Board of Pathology also filed a letter of concern about Cole to the Washington Medical Commission.

The letter, dated September 28, 2021, says, in part, “we have received multiple complaints about Dr. Cole and have been alerted to social media content relating to those complaints. The complaints accuse Dr. Cole of promulgating disinformation, advising against vaccines and masks, and giving advice that promotes the transmission of COVID-19. He purportedly has made statements that vaccines are 'fake,' that they lead to cancer and autoimmune diseases, a 'clot shot,' 'needle rape,' and a 'human experiment,' even though the Pfizer vaccine has been fully FDA-approved after rigorous safety and efficacy trials. 

"He has advised patients to take hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin without scientific data to support their use in the treatment of patients with COVID-19. We also received an allegation that Dr. Cole may have provided prescriptions to patients in the absence of a physician-patient relationship and without sufficient medical record keeping…”

The investigation

The Washington Medical Commission's investigation may take several more months depending on the complexity of the case and the ability to gather information.

WMC legislative liaison and public information officer Stephanie Mason said in an email to KTVB that the goal usually is to complete an investigation within 170 days, but "because Dr. Cole has several complaints under investigation at the same time, it could take longer".

"If all the complaints are combined to make one 'master case' then early complaints may be open more than 170 days," Mason added. "The investigations are definitely being actively pursued."

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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