Arkansas Inmates Sue Jail for Treating COVID With Ivermectin Without Consent
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four inmates at an Arkansas jail who were unknowingly administered ivermectin to treat their cases of COVID-19.
The plaintiffs in the case allege they were misled about the drugs they were given to treat their bouts of COVID-19, which they believed were “vitamins,” “antibiotics,” and/or “steroids,” according to the lawsuit. Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19.
“FDA has not approved Ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans,” the federal agency said in a statement. “Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an antiviral.”
The suit against the Washington County Detention Center names Sheriff Tim Helder, the correctional facility’s doctor Robert Karas, 10 employees of the facility and 10 employees of Karas Correctional Health as defendants in the case. The plaintiffs claim the actions of the jail’s staff violated their personal autonomy and constitutional rights while also endangering their well-being.
Karas began using Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 with the detention center’s detainees as early as Nov. 2020, the suit alleges. The inmates and other detainees were administered high doses of vitamins and ivermectin twice daily, which ranged in volume from two to 10 pills.
Prior to the lawsuit, Karas had both publicly and privately promoted the drug as a means of combating the virus. On Dec. 24, 2021, Karas admitted on his clinic’s Facebook page to giving inmates higher doses of ivermectin than the amounts he had given to his private clinic patients.
“Plaintiffs ingested incredibly high doses of a drug that credible medical professionals, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all agree is not an effective treatment against COVID-19, and that if given in large doses is dangerous for humans,” the text of the ACLU’s complaint read. “But this was no deterrent to defendants, whose actions affronted plaintiffs’ personal autonomy, violated their constitutional rights, and jeopardized their well-being.”
As a result of their treatment, the inmates suffered side effects consistent with the overuse of ivermectin, leading to mental distress, anger and lingering mistrust of the jail staff. Their side effects included vision issues, diarrhea, bloody stools and stomach cramps.
Additionally, the inmates were forced to pay fees associated with the medical examinations they sought after suffering side effects from the doctor’s treatment. The plaintiffs were never made aware of their treatment with ivermectin or its potential side effects.
The incarcerated individuals submitted grievances regarding their treatment for COVID-19 to detention center personnel — who then forwarded the grievances to Karas and his clinic — although the jail’s grievance policy states that responses to medical grievances are not appealable. The defendants later attempted to obtain retroactive consent from the detainees for medical treatment with ivermectin, according to the text of the complaint.
“No one — including incarcerated individuals — should be deceived and subject to medical experimentation,” Gary Sullivan, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a written statement. “Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide food, shelter, and safe, appropriate care to incarcerated individuals. The Federal Food and Drug Administration has said that misuse of Ivermectin for COVID-19 can cause serious harm including seizures, comas, and even death. The detention center failed to use safe and appropriate treatments for COVID-19, even in the midst of a pandemic, and they must be held accountable.”
Reece can be reached at [email protected].