Trial for prescribing ivermectin to Arkansas prison inmates, explained

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit this month against Washington County Jail Sheriff Tim Helder and Dr. Robert Karas for giving inmates ivermectin as a treatment for covid-19 .

Back: What is ivermectin and how was it used?

Ivermectin is an FDA-approved drug for use in people with treat infections caused by certain parasitic worms and head lice, as well as skin conditions such as rosacea, according to the administration’s website. (Versions of the drug are also made for animals, and these are not approved for use in humans.)

Ivermectin has has never been approved as a treatment for covid-19. However, Karas, the doctor who was hired to provide care at the Washington County Jail, told county officials in August that he was giving ivermectin to inmates as covid treatment.

What does the lawsuit say?

The lawsuit argues that the detainees, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, received ivermectin as early as November 2020 and did not become aware of the treatment until July. The lawsuit says they were said the treatment consisted of “vitamins”,”antibiotics” and/or ” steroids.”

The lawsuit says the men were also given too high doses of ivermectin and that the drug caused side effects in detainees, such as severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vision problems, diarrhoea, bloody stools and/or stomach cramps.

The filing asserts that the administration of the drug was a violation of the due process rights of detainees and their right to equal protection under the law. The suit also claims Karas violated a state law that requires medical providers to warn a patient of the dangers of future medical treatment.

Did the doctor, sheriff or others respond?

No response has yet been filed in court by Karas or anyone else, but Karas defended his use of ivermectin in a statement in August. Karas said he had prescribed it to prisoners and patients at his clinics since late 2020 and believed a comparison of “potential benefits” with known risks supported his use of the drug.

Karas said he was trying to prevent death or serious illness, and none of the more than 500 people he gave ivermectin to had been hospitalized, intubated or died.

Helder, the sheriff, said in late August that he learned about the use of the drug after it had already been administered in prison, and he decided not to question or overturn the decisions of the medical staff.

Learn more about the trial of Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Ron Wood.

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