Washington County Quorum Court Justice of the Peace Eva Madison frightened many people around the country when she informed her colleagues that a doctor had been prescribing ivermectin to COVID-19 patients at a local Arkansas jail. Madison learned of the doctor's practice after speaking to a county employee who had been prescribed the drug and told to pick it up at a local pharmacy for $76. Fortunately, the county employee's primary care physician steered them clear of the prescribed drug because it is often used on cows and horses to prevent parasite growth.
“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 told her colleagues during a finance and budget meeting on August 24.
“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."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned average Americans not to use ivermectin to self-medicate while dealing with COVID-19. The drug can have adverse effects such as itching, hives, headaches and nausea. Not to mention, it can kill humans when used in large doses.
"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)," a statement from the FDA reads.
"Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans."
The county employee that Madison came in contact with has the opportunity to meet with another doctor to get a second opinion. Unfortunately, the inmates that are allegedly being prescribed this drug do not.
Adding to the issue, this alleged prescription method disproportionately impacts Black communities. Less than 16% of Arkansas's population is Black, but Black folks are nearly eight times more likely to be incarcerated than white people in the southern state. Moreover, Black people make up nearly half of the state's population. Not to mention, COVID-19 has consistently disproportionately impacted Black children and adults throughout the pandemic. Simply put, Black people incarcerated in Arkansas jails have a high chance of being impacted by a doctor prescribing an anti-parasite drug meant for animals.
"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."
Tragically, it does not appear that anything will be done to stop this doctor from prescribing "cow dewormer" to inmates. Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder told the Associated Press that he was aware of the drug being prescribed to inmates, but he brushed off the issue by saying it wasn't his responsibility to do anything about it.
“Whatever a doctor prescribes, that is not in my bailiwick,” Helder told the Associated Press.