State Watch

Arkansas inmates prescribed animal parasite medicine to combat COVID-19

An Arkansas jail has been found to be prescribing an animal parasite medicine to inmates to treat COVID-19.

A member of the Washington County Quorum Court, the local legislative body, said during a meeting on Tuesday that she learned about a doctor, Robert Karas, who had been giving the drug ivermectin to inmates at Karas Correctional.

The member, Eva Madison, also said she learned of a county employee being prescribed the drug by the doctor after testing negative for COVID-19. Karas allegedly told her to pick up the medicine, which cost $76, at his pharmacy.

The employee’s primary care doctor quickly instructed him to throw the medicine away.

“I heard a report from a county employee who was sent there, to Dr. Karas, for testing, tested negative, was given a prescription for ivermectin, was told to go to Dr. Karas’s pharmacy just off campus to have it filled, when the employee reported it to his primary care physician,” Madison said.

“His primary care physician said, ‘You need to throw that in the trash.’ He’s out $76 because of Dr. Karas prescribing dewormer to a county employee for treatment of a condition that he didn’t have,” Madison added.

She said the doctor’s position for treating inmates at the facility is “raising a lot of eyebrows in the medical community in Washington County and around.”

“And at a time when the world is laughing at us for people taking cow dewormer, I think we need to reevaluate who we’re using,” Madison said.

“The employee had the good fortune to have a physician that he could go to and ask for a second opinion. Our inmates do not have that choice,” she added.

The prescription of ivermectin to inmates in Arkansas comes amid an increased focus on the animal parasite medicine after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public against using it to treat COVID-19.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA wrote in a tweet on Saturday.

The agency said that “using any treatment for COVID-19 that’s not approved or authorized by the FDA, unless part of a clinical trial, can cause serious harm.”

While the drug is approved for people and animals, it is supposed to be used to treat some parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions, according to the FDA. If taken in large doses, it can be dangerous and cause serious harm.

Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder has also confirmed the use of ivermectin in the jail, according to The Associated Press.

Helder did not reveal how many inmates in the 710-bed jail had been given the drug, the AP reported. He did, however, say the health care provided was not his responsibilty. 

“Whatever a doctor prescribes, that is not in my bailiwick,” Helder said, according to the AP.

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