Inmates in the Washington County, Arkansas, jail have been prescribed the deworming medication Ivermectin as a COVID treatment, local officials say, despite an alert from the Food and Drug Administration that the drug has not been approved for that use.
Ivermectin has become something of a second hydroxychloroquine in recent months — much hyped as a COVID treatment or preventative, especially by conservative politicians, but not actually proven as useful or supported by the vast majority of the medical community.
The extent of the drug’s use in the Arkansas jail facility is not clear, but locals have expressed concern in light of the recent FDA warning that the agency has not approved Ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. The drug has proved especially harmful in instances when human beings attempt to self-medicate with veterinary doses of the drug, meant for cows or horses.
“I was really mortified by it, but also just embarrassed. I mean, the whole world’s talking about ‘don’t do this,’ but yet we’re doing it to our detainees,” Eva Madison, a justice of the peace in Washington County, told TPM Wednesday. Justices of the peace are equivalent to county commissioners in Arkansas.
Madison claimed in a county meeting Tuesday night that the doctor contracted to work in the county jail, Rob Karas, was prescribing Ivermectin for inmates. She said she’d also heard from a county employee who’d received a negative COVID-19 test at the jail that the employee had been prescribed Ivermectin. Madison shared with TPM a photograph of the prescription she said the employee received for Ivermectin.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Sheriff Tim Helder separately confirmed that Karas Correctional Health had informed him last month that they were using the medication. Helder praised Karas at the county meeting Tuesday night.
“This is appalling,” State Rep. Nicole Clowney (D) wrote in response to the Democrat Gazette report.
This is appalling.
Washington Co. is treating inmates with Ivermectin, in direct contradiction with FDA guidelines. And the doc providing this care – who doesn’t believe in the efficacy of masks – is asking for a 10% increase in funding for next year. https://t.co/EHvSFwXKas
— Nicole Clowney (@NicoleClowneyAR) August 25, 2021
Holly Dickson, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement that the jail’s use of Ivermectin “illustrates the larger systemic problem of mistreatment of detainees and over incarceration in Arkansas that has persisted — even in the midst of a pandemic.”
“No one — including incarcerated individuals — should be subject to medical experimentation,” Dickson said.
At a news conference Tuesday at which he noted that the state’s ICU beds for COVID patients are “full right now,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said the state’s department of health would be posting an advisory on veterinary Ivermectin.
“What we’re seeing across the south, not just our state, is that veterinary-grade Ivermectin is being taken by humans, and we’re seeing increased numbers of cases — both in adults and children — that are being reported to the poison control center,” state Health Secretary José R. Romero said.
Some of the right’s loudest voices have boosted Ivermectin in recent months, including Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who said of that drug and hydroxychloroquine, “there was a campaign — a concerted campaign — to vilify and dismiss and demean, and, frankly, lie about it, the effectiveness of these drugs. There’s nothing else to call it.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has also publicized the drug. Kelli Ward, the Trumpy chair of the Arizona GOP, attacked the FDA’s warning against using it.
To quote President Trump, “Everything woke turns to sh**.” This apparently includes the FDA. This tweet & the info it conveys is ?. https://t.co/Fc5lKXACFy
— Dr. Kelli Ward ?? (@kelliwardaz) August 22, 2021
TPM reached out to Karas Correctional Health for comment. Someone who answered the phone said Karas would be in touch if he wanted to comment.
In an email, the sheriff’s office referred TPM to Karas.
But Madison, the justice of the peace, shared a text message with TPM that she said was from the sheriff, in which he said Ivermectin was “given to positive patients only,” and that Karas was giving vitamin D as a preventative.
“We’ve had over 500 positives to date in the jail with one brief hospital visit,” the sheriff texted Madison. “Karas rocks!”
The Facebook page for Karas’ practice, Karas Health Care, also trumpeted Ivermectin, referring to it in comments as “one of 8 medicine [sic] we use in the treatment of covid.” Separately, the account said Karas has used Ivermectin as a prophylaxis.
In response to one commenter, Karas appeared to defend using Ivermectin in the jail setting.
“I got experience and don’t really need more studies,” he wrote, after referring to studies of the drug’s use on COVID patients. “Over 4000 patients treated with. 1 percent mortality, 0% mortality in over 350 documented cases at the jail.”