Inmates have launched a lawsuit against an Arkansas jail after they claim they were unwittingly given the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 in what's been described as a form of nonconsensual “medical experimentation.”
The lawsuit was filed against the Washington County Detention Center by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas on behalf of four inmates at the jail. After testing positive for COVID-19 in August 2020, the plaintiffs were allegedly told they were being given a treatment of “vitamins,” “antibiotics,” and/or “steroids,” but were tricked into taking an unknown dose of ivermectin as early as November 2020. They say they only became aware of the treatment in July 2021.
“Had Plaintiffs been informed that the drugs they were given included the dewormer Ivermectin and informed of its nature and potential side effects, they would have refused to take it,” the lawsuit reads.
The inmates claim they suffered from side effects known to be associated with the overuse of ivermectin, specifically vision problems, diarrhea, bloody stools, and stomach cramps.
"It was not consensual. They used us as an experiment — like we're livestock," said Edrick Floreal-Wooten, one of the plaintiffs, according to CBS News. "Just because we wear stripes and we make a few mistakes in life, doesn't make us less of a human."
As the lawsuit notes, ivermectin is not a proven drug to treat COVID-19. Ivermectin has been dubbed a “wonder drug” for its ability to prevent life-threatening parasitic infections in humans and deworming horses, but the evidence it can treat COVID-19 is sketchy and lacking at best. Despite this lack of evidence, the drug became popular among some Republican politicians and anti-vaxxers, who promoted the deworming drug as something of a miracle cure for COVID.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. In a now-famous tweet, it told Americans: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued a health alert last year reminding clinicians that ivermectin is not an FDA-approved treatment for COVID.
There’s a fair amount of evidence that misuse and overuse of the drug can cause serious harm, including seizures, comas, and death (not to mention some deeply unpleasant gastrointestinal problems).
“No one – including incarcerated individuals – should be deceived and subject to medical experimentation,” Gary Sullivan, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement.
“The Federal Food and Drug Administration has said that misuse of Ivermectin for COVID-19 can cause serious harm including seizures, comas, and even death. The detention center failed to use safe and appropriate treatments for COVID-19, even in the midst of a pandemic, and they must be held accountable."