LITTLE ROCK -- On Tuesday, August 24, at a Quorum Court Finance & Budget Committee meeting, it was revealed that a medical provider for a Washington County jail treated individuals for COVID-19 with ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug commonly used for livestock. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned 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)."
Holly Dickson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas issued the following statement on the use of the unapproved treatment:
“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 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.