Arkansas Inmates Sue after Unknowingly Taking Ivermectin as a COVID-19 Treatment

Ivermectin drug Photo Source: (Mike Stewart/AP via NPR)

This past week, four inmates at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) in Arkansas filed a lawsuit after unknowingly taking Ivermectin, a livestock deworming drug, prescribed to them by the jail as a COVID-19 treatment.

The WCDC, under the direction of Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder, hired Karas Correctional Health, PLLC to authorize, administer, and prescribe medical treatments for the inmates. Dr. Robert Karas, the sole operator of Karas Correctional Health, PLLC, had been using Ivermectin on his patients, both privately and for the WCDC detainees, even after the FDA specifically urged people not to take the medicine to treat COVID-19.

After an inmate tested positive for COVID-19 at WCDC, Dr. Karas would mix Ivermectin into a “cocktail of drugs” which the inmates were told contained only “vitamins, antibiotics, and steroids.” The plaintiffs were given anywhere from two to 10 pills twice a day and were never informed of either what they were taking, the dosage, or the potential side effects.

Ivermectin is mostly used for livestock animals to deworm and prevent parasites. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of the drug in humans to treat certain parasitic worms or lice but in very small doses.

Since the rise of COVID-19, Dr. Karas publicly and privately supported “the virtues of the use of the drug Ivermectin to combat [COVID-19]” and began using the drugs on WCDC detainees as early as November 2020.

The drug has been touted as a “miracle drug” for smaller parasitic infections since the 1980s, but with the rise of COVID-19, it has surfaced as a claimed alternative to the COVID-19 vaccine in certain anti-vaccine circles.

Dr. Karas had stated on his company’s social media website that there had been 531 positive cases of COVID-19 at WCDC and all of those inmates had taken the drug since November 2020. On Karas Correctional Health social media outlets, Dr. Karas detailed he had been administering as much as 0.4mg/kg of the drug to inmates. Taking into consideration the height and weight of the inmates, this amount ranged from 3.4 to 6.3 times the FDA-approved dosage.

The four plaintiffs, Edrick Florea-Wooten, Jeremiah Little, Julio Gonzales, and Dayman Blackburn claimed to experience diarrhea, stomach cramps, and problems with their vision after taking the mix of drugs.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs claiming a violation of due process rights under the 14th amendment and violation of equal protection. The inmates were not given the necessary information needed to make an informed, voluntary decision to take the medicine after contracting COVID-19. Not only was this a violation of their 14th amendment rights but also a violation of Arkansas Code § 16-114-206 which states “medical providers have a statutory duty to warn a patient of hazards of future medical treatment.”

The complaints also point out the difference in treatment between Dr. Karas’s private patients and the inmates of WCDC. His private patients were given all the information on the drug and were only administered the approved amount by the FDA. However, the inmates of WCDC filing the suit did not have the same access to the information, such as the company’s social media pages, or were told what exactly they were taking.

The lawsuit claims that Dr. Karas could have also had a possible financial incentive to use ivermectin due to the type of contract Karas Correctional Health had with WCDC along with the fact that the plaintiffs had to pay medical examination fees for being treated for the side effects of taking Ivermectin at such high doses.

Haley Larkin
Haley Larkin
Haley is a freelance writer and creator with a focus on law and politics. She has a Master’s from American University in International Relations and currently works in labor relations and collective bargaining rights.