Judge Won’t Dismiss Arkansas Jail Ivermectin Lawsuit

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit that says detainees in an Arkansas jail were given the COVID-19 drug ivermectin without their knowledge.

The lawsuit alleges that detainees at the Washington County Jail in Fayetteville were administered ivermectin beginning in November 2020, but did not learn it until July 2021. Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat parasitic infestations such as intestinal worms and lice and some skin conditions. like rosacea. It is not, and was not at the time, approved to treat COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks ruled Thursday that the lawsuit could go forward, saying Dr. Robert Karas used the detainees for an experiment, The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The plaintiffs in the case include Edrick Floreal-Wooten, Jeremiah Little, Julio Gonzales, Thomas Fritch and Dayman Blackburn. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union last year against Karas, Karas Correctional Health, former Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder and the Washington County Detention Center.

In a written opinion, Brooks said Karas began conducting his own research and hypothesized that the drug could be an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Karas prescribed ivermectin to two groups of test subjects. The first was made up of people who sought Karas’ services at his private medical clinic and agreed to take ivermectin as part of an experimental treatment for COVID-19, Brooks noted. The second group was made up of detainees who were incarcerated in jail.

“Inmates received Dr. Karas’ treatment protocol for COVID-19, but were unaware that it included ivermectin,” Brooks wrote. “Dr. Karas and his staff falsely told the inmates that the treatment consisted of mere ‘vitamins,’ ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’ Critically, the inmates had no idea that they were part of Dr. Karas”.

Because the detainees were never told their “treatments” contained ivermectin, they were never warned about the drug’s side effects, Brooks said. According to the FDA, the drug’s side effects include rash, nausea, and vomiting.

Additionally, Karas hypothesized that large doses of ivermectin would be more effective in fighting COVID-19. The problem, however, was that the FDA had only approved a dose of 0.2 mg/kg to treat worms, according to Brooks. Karas eventually prescribed lower doses of ivermectin to his clinic patients and higher doses to his incarcerated patients.

“On first reading, it would seem highly unlikely, even implausible, that a doctor would have dosed his incarcerated patients with an experimental drug more aggressively than his private patients, but the plaintiffs point to evidence in their jail medical records.” Brooks wrote.

Brooks also said that Helder may have known or should have known that Karas was performing ivermectin experiments on detainees without their knowledge due to Karas’s social media posts and that he condoned, tolerated, or turned a blind eye to this violation of his rights. rights.

“The incarcerated individuals had no idea they were part of a medical experiment,” Gary Sullivan, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a news release Friday. “Sheriff Helder and Dr. Karas routinely mischaracterized the fundamental nature of the plaintiffs’ claims in their motion for dismissal by refusing to name the more significant allegations in the lawsuit.”

Brooks found that Karas is not entitled to the immunity that protects state and local governments from damages for damages unless they violate the constitution. Brooks said Karas and her clinic sought and won a county contract to provide medical care to hundreds of jail detainees over many years at a cost of more than $1.3 million a year.

Brooks also said the detainees have made a plausible assault claim that Karas intentionally withheld details of a treatment to induce a captive audience to take a particular drug for their own professional and private purposes.

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