Arkansas prisoner given Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment, jail doctor

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Four inmates at a northwestern Arkansas jail sued the facility and its doctor Thursday after saying they had unknowingly been prescribed ivermectin to treat COVID-19 despite health authorities’ warnings that the antiparasitic drug should not be used for that purpose.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas brought the case before a federal court on behalf of the detainees against Washington County Jail, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder and Dr. Robert Karas. Helder in August revealed that ivermectin had been prescribed to inmates to treat their COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin for use in humans and animals against some parasitic worms, head lice and skin diseases. The FDA has not approved its use for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in humans. According to the FDA, side effects of the drug include skin rash, nausea and vomiting.

The inmates said they were never told that ivermectin was among the medications they had been given to treat their COVID-19, and instead they were told they were given vitamins, antibiotics or steroids.

“The truth was, however, that without knowledge and voluntary consent, plaintiffs ingested incredibly high doses of a drug, as credible physicians, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all agree is not an effective treatment for COVID-19, and that if given in large doses, it is dangerous for humans, ”the lawsuit states.

Karas did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office declined to comment. Karas has previously said no inmates were forced to take the drug.

Karas has said he started giving ivermectin in jail in November 2020. The four inmates were given the drug after testing positive for COVID-19 in August 2021, according to the trial.

The Danish Medical Board has investigated complaints against Karas over the prison’s use of ivermectin, and is expected to discuss the investigation at its February meeting.

A box of ivermectin is displayed at a pharmacy while pharmacists work in the background on Thursday, September 9, 2021 in Georgia.  (AP Photo / Mike Stewart)
A box of ivermectin is displayed at a pharmacy while pharmacists work in the background on Thursday, September 9, 2021 in Georgia. (AP Photo / Mike Stewart)

In a September letter sent by his lawyer, Karas told a Medical Board investigator that 254 inmates at the jail had been treated with ivermectin.

In the letter, Karas said that the information given to the inmates about ivermectin depended on who administered it and that paramedics had not been given “required advisory details” to discuss with the inmates about the drug. Karas said the process had since been improved.

“Since the start of media coverage, we have adopted a more robust informed consent form to allay any concerns that any detainees were misled or forced to take the medication, even if they were not,” the letter said.

The four inmates suffered side effects from taking the drug, including vision problems, diarrhea and stomach cramps, according to the trial.

The American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists last year called for an immediate halt to prescribing and using the drug to treat coronavirus.

Pharmacy prescriptions for ivermectin boomed last summer, and health officials in Arkansas and other states issued warnings after seeing an increase in the poison control center’s calls for people taking the drug’s animal form to treat COVID-19. The CDC also sent a warning to doctors about the trend.

Despite the warnings, the drug had been hailed by Republican lawmakers in Arkansas and other states as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

The inmates request that they receive a medical assessment from a provider not affiliated with Karas.

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