The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed the lawsuit in federal court on Thursday on behalf of the inmates. Those named in the suit were the Washington County jail, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder and Dr. Robert Karas.
The lawsuit states that after the detainees tested positive for COVID-19 in August 2021 they were told they were being given “’vitamins,’ ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.”’ The inmates claim they were never told ivermectin was among the medications in their treatment.
But in August, Helder revealed that ivermectin had been prescribed to inmates to treat their COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin for use by people and animals for some parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions. The FDA has not approved its use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. According to the FDA, side effects for the drug include skin rash, nausea and vomiting.
“The truth, however, was that without knowing and voluntary consent, 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, and that if given in large doses is dangerous for humans,” the lawsuit said.
The four inmates suffered side effects from taking the drug including vision issues, diarrhea and stomach cramps, according to the lawsuit. The inmates are asking that they receive a medical evaluation by a provider not affiliated with Karas.
Karas has said he began giving ivermectin at the jail in November 2020. In a September letter sent by his attorney, Karas told a Medical Board investigator that 254 inmates at the jail had been treated with ivermectin.
The state Medical Board has been investigating complaints against Karas over the jail’s use of ivermectin, and is expected to discuss the investigation at its February meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.