Covid: Arkansas jail dosing inmates with ivermectin in spite of FDA warnings | Coronavirus | The Guardian
Inmates at a north-west Arkansas jail have been prescribed a medicine for treating coronavirus that is normally used to deworm livestock, despite federal health warnings to the public in exasperated tones.
Washington county’s sheriff confirmed this week that the jail’s health provider had been prescribing the drug.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal drugs regulator, issued a warning via Twitter last weekend.
“You are not a horse,” it said. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
Sheriff Tim Helder did not say how many inmates at the 710-bed facility had been given ivermectin and defended the health provider that has been prescribing the medication.
“Whatever a doctor prescribes, that is not in my bailiwick,” Helder told members of the Washington county quorum court, the county’s governing body.
Helder did not immediately respond to a call from the Associated Press, and a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office referred questions to Karas Correctional Health, the jail’s health provider.
It is not clear what information inmates who were prescribed the drug have been given about it, including warnings that it is not approved to treat Covid.
The US FDA has approved ivermectin in both people and animals for some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions. The FDA has not approved its use in treating or preventing Covid-19 in humans.
“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,” the FDA said in a warning about the drug.
Prominent rightwingers have been promoting the drug for Covid and public health officials have come under attack from some Republicans for urging Americans to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
Ivermectin has been touted by some Republican lawmakers in Arkansas as a potential Covid treatment.
Health officials in Arkansas and Mississippi this week warned people not to take the veterinary formulation of the drug after seeing an uptick in calls to their poison control centers.
Eva Madison, a member of the quorum court, called the use of the drug on inmates “disturbing”, noting that they were not in a position to seek a second opinion from physicians about its use.
“Are we allowing him to effectively experiment on our detainees at our jail with no oversight?” Madison said.
Karas Correctional did not immediately return a message left on Wednesday morning. Helder said Karas informed him of the drug’s use in July, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Helder said on Tuesday night that the jail has had zero inmate deaths from the coronavirus, and jail officials said inmates had also been offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas criticized the distribution of the drug to inmates and said it was seeking additional records from the sheriff’s office and the health provider.
“They need to stop this practice immediately,” ACLU of Arkansas’s executive director, Holly Dickson, said.
None of the jail’s inmates administered ivermectin were state prisoners being held by the facility, the state department of corrections said. The department and its medical services provider are not providing ivermectin to any of its inmates, spokeswoman Cindy Murphy said.
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