A group of men detained at Arkansas’ Washington County Detention Center claim that the jail’s medical staff gave them the anti-parasite drug ivermectin without their consent last year to treat COVID-19 while telling them the pills were “vitamins.” On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the jail and its doctor on behalf of the inmates.
Ivermectin has been repeatedly warned against by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The medication has only been approved for use in humans to treat river blindness, intestinal strongyloidiasis, head lice, and rosacea.
According to the lawsuit, medical staff at the jail administered ivermectin to the men as early as November 2020, and the men were unaware of what the pill was until long after they received it. Last August, county sheriff Tim Helder confirmed that the facility’s doctor, Dr. Robert Karas, prescribed ivermectin at a local finance and budget committee meeting.
According to the lawsuit, the jail’s medical staff told 30-year-old Edrick Floreal-Wooten that the ivermectin pills were “vitamins,” “antibiotics,” and/or “steroids.”
“The truth, however, was that 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,” according to the lawsuit.
The inmates want an independent medical evaluation and to be “awarded their costs, fees, and any other appropriate relief to which they are entitled.”
According to Gary Sullivan, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas, “no one — including incarcerated individuals — should be deceived and subjected to medical experimentation.”
“Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide incarcerated individuals with food, shelter, and safe, appropriate care,” Sullivan said. “…Even in the midst of a pandemic, the detention center failed to use safe and appropriate COVID-19 treatments, and they must be held accountable.”
According to the lawsuit, Floreal-Wooten and the other plaintiffs all tested positive for COVID-19 in August 2021. According to them, the jail relocated them to barracks “specifically designated” for quarantine, where 22 people are believed to have been housed.
According to the lawsuit, Karas’ team provided them with a “cocktail” of between two and ten pills twice a day.
Floreal-Wooten spoke with news reporters via video call from the detention center where he is still being held in September. He and other inmates were unaware the jail nurses were administering ivermectin until about five days after they began receiving the pills.
“They said it was vitamins, steroids, and antibiotics,” he explained to reporters. “We were running fevers, throwing up, diarrhea … and so we figured that they were here to help us. … We never knew that they were running experiments on us, giving us ivermectin. We never knew that.”
He claimed that the inmates couldn’t tell what the pills were because they were pulled from a drawer containing dozens of bottles. Floreal-Wooten claims that it wasn’t until news reports about the situation surfaced that medical staff began to request consent for the ivermectin.
He and about 20 other people turned them down when they asked for permission, he added.
According to the lawsuit, the men were given a cocktail of pills that included “high doses” of vitamins as well as ivermectin.
According to the lawsuit, Floreal-Wooten should have only received up to 0.2 mg/kg in a single dose, or about 14 mg, based on his height and weight.
Dayman Blackburn claims to have been in a similar situation. According to the lawsuit, his medical records show that he was given nearly 6.3 times the recommended dosage of ivermectin for his height and weight.
According to the CDC, people who take “inappropriately high doses” of the medication “may experience toxic effects,” such as nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, seizures, coma, and death. Floreal-Wooten stated that he experienced diarrhea and upper abdominal pain in the weeks following his administration of the medication.