WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Inmates at a jail in Arkansas were treated for COVID-19 with ivermectin, according to county officials at a finance and budget committee meeting Wednesday. Ivermectin is an anti-parasite drug commonly used for livestock that’s been erroneously used as a coronavirus treatment in recent weeks. The Food and Drug Administration and doctors strongly warn against it.
The realization the drug was used on inmates came after a county employee was tested for COVID-19, said a county official. The employee said they tested negative and were given a prescription of ivermectin.
The employee went to their primary care doctor who told them to throw it away.
“The employee had the good fortune of having a primary care physician to ask for a second opinion and our inmates do not have the choice,” said Eva Madison, Washington County Justice of the Peace.
Sheriff Tim Helder defended the jail’s health care partner, Karas Health, Wednesday.
“They are the ones who have been in the trenches in the middle of this COVID issue that we’re dealing with,” Sheriff Helder said. “Whatever a doctor prescribes, that is not in my bailiwick. I haven’t been to medical school.”
The sheriff said during the meeting only one person of over 500 positive tests had been admitted to the hospital.
Karas Health Care made a Facebook post on July 16 that stated in part, “if anybody you know test positive send them our way and we’ll get them started on doxy, singular, ivermectin, vitamin d, vitamin c and zinc and do our best to keep them out of the hospital.”
A comment was made on the post and Karas Health Care responded with: “Yes we have been using ivermectin for prevention since January. I restarted for myself last week.”
The FDA warns against using the drug to treat COVID-19, stating: “FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses).”
The ACLU released a statement on the use of Ivermectin at the Washington County Jail.
No one – including incarcerated individuals – should be subject to medical experimentation. Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide food, shelter and safe, appropriate care to incarcerated people. The FDA has said that misuse of ivermectin for COVID-19 can cause serious harm including seizures, comas, and even death. The detention center’s failure to use safe and appropriate treatments for COVID-19, in conjunction with Sheriff Hedler’s request to use COVID-19 relief money to expand the jail, illustrates a the larger systemic problem of mistreatment of detainees and over incarceration in Arkansas that has persisted–even in the midst of a pandemic.
Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder confirmed that Karas Correctional Health had been prescribing the drug to jailed individuals at a Quorum Court Finance & Budget Committee meeting. During the meeting the sheriff presented his 2022 budget proposal which asked for a 10 percent increase for the medical provider. Washington county received $23 million under the federal American Rescue Plan and expects an equal amount this year — Sheriff Helder wants to use a portion of these funds to expand the jail.
The ACLU of Arkansas has requested records from the Sheriff’s office and from Karas Correctional Medical related to jail detainees and COVID-19 precautions and care.Holly Dickson, Executive Director of ACLU