Conflicting stories surround ivermectin use on inmates

Sept. 3, 2021

A northwest Arkansas jail has been prescribing the controversial drug, ivermectin, to treat its COVID patients — and now inmates are saying they didn't consent.

Last week, AP news reported that inmates at the Arkansas jail were being prescribed ivermectin to combat COVID-19, despite warnings from federal health officials that the anti-parasitic drug should not be used to treat the coronavirus.

Soon after, inmates at the jail said they didn't know they were being given ivermectin until its use at the facility was revealed in the news last week. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said that it had also heard from several inmates who were told the drug was vitamins or steroids. 

The U.S. FDA has approved ivermectin in both people and animals for some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions, but has warned against the drug's use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans.

Karas Correctional Health, the jail’s health provider, headed up by Dr. Rob Karas, confirmed writing the prescriptions, but said no inmates were forced to take ivermectin. It is not clear how many inmates at the 710-bed facility had been given the drug.

It is also unclear what information inmates who were prescribed the drug had been given about it, including warnings that it isn’t approved to treat COVID. The Arkansas Medical Board is currently investigating the reports.