LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (NEXSTAR) – Four inmates at a prison in northwest Arkansas sued the facility and its doctor on Thursday after they said they were unknowingly prescribed ivermectin to treat COVID-19 despite warnings from health officials that the antiparasitic drug should not be used for this purpose.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the inmates against Washington County Jail, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder and Dr. Robert Karas. Held in August revealed that ivermectin had been prescribed to inmates to treat their COVID-19.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin for use by people and animals against certain parasitic worms, head lice, and skin conditions. The FDA has not approved its use in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in humans. According to the FDA, side effects of the drug include rashes, nausea, and vomiting.
Detainees said they were never told that ivermectin was among the drugs they were given to treat their COVID-19, and were instead told that they were receiving vitamins, antibiotics or steroids.
“The truth, however, is that the plaintiffs unknowingly and without voluntary consent ingested incredibly high doses of a drug that credible medical professionals, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree it is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. , and that if given in large doses it is dangerous to humans,” the lawsuit stated.
Karas, the prison doctor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office declined to comment. Karas previously said no inmates were forced to take drugs.
Karas said he started giving ivermectin at the prison in November 2020. The four inmates received the drug after testing positive for COVID-19 in August 2021, according to the lawsuit.
The state medical board investigated complaints against Karas over the prison’s use of ivermectin, and is expected to discuss the investigation at its February meeting.
In a letter sent in September by his lawyer, Karas told a Medical Council investigator that 254 inmates at the prison had been treated with ivermectin.
In the letter, Karas said the information given to inmates about ivermectin depended on who was administering it and that paramedics had not been given the “required counseling details” to discuss the drug with inmates. Karas said the process has since been improved.
“Since the news coverage began, we have adopted a more robust informed consent form to allay any concerns that inmates may be misled or coerced into taking the drugs, even if they are not,” the letter reads. .
All four inmates suffered side effects from taking the drug, including vision problems, diarrhea and stomach cramps, according to the lawsuit.
One of the plaintiffs, Edrick Floreal-Wooten, told CBS that he and other inmates had no idea that they were receiving ivermectin until about five days after they started taking the pills and suffered from symptoms.
“It wasn’t consensual. They used us as an experiment – like we were cattle,” Floreal-Wooten said. “It’s not because we wear stripes and make a few mistakes in life. that we are less human. We have families, we have loved ones there who love us.
The lawsuit claims that Floreal-Wooten received more than triple the approved dose based on his height and weight.
“I guess we made the news again this week,” Dr Karas wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “Still with the best record in the world in prison with the same protocols. Inmates aren’t stupid and I suspect that in the future other inmates across the country will sue (sic) their institutions to demand the same treatment we use at WCDC – including ivermectin.
In a Jan. 6 post, Karas warned there was “a lot of covid out there” and recommended adults start gargling salt water and take zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C. False declarations that the same supplements could prevent or treat COVID-19 were linked to the National Institutes of Health in 2021 by wrong headline and tweet.
The American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists last year called for an immediate halt to the prescription and use of ivermectin to treat coronavirus.
Pharmaceutical prescriptions for ivermectin skyrocketed last summer, and health officials in Arkansas and other states issued warnings after seeing a spike in calls to poison control centers about people taking the animal form of the drug to treat COVID-19. The CDC also sent an alert to doctors about the trend.
Despite warnings, the drug had been touted by Republican lawmakers in Arkansas and other states as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Detainees request that they receive a medical evaluation by a provider unaffiliated with Karas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.