Nice big experimental animals

Prison populations are hotbeds of COVID-19 infections, and they’re full of surplus people society doesn’t really need, and gosh, a lot of them are black, even, so you know what we should do? An experiment!

An Arkansas doctor under investigation for prescribing an anti-parasite drug called ivermectin to jail detainees with COVID-19, even though federal health officials specifically warn against it, has said that those patients took the drug willingly. But several inmates at the Washington County jail say that is not the case — that they were given the pills with no indication of what they really were.

CBS News spoke with 29-year-old Edrick Floreal-Wooten over a video call from the jail on Friday. After testing positive for COVID-19 in August, he said he and other inmates went to “pill call” and were given several pills with the explanation that it would help them “get better.” He said he and others asked repeatedly what the pills were.

“They said they were vitamins, steroids and antibiotics,” Floreal-Wooten told CBS News. “We were running fevers, throwing up, diarrhea … and so we figured that they were here to help us. … We never knew that they were running experiments on us, giving us ivermectin. We never knew that.”

Except it wasn’t even an experiment. The doctor, Rob Karas, took it upon himself to dose the patients, despite the fact that every credible medical organization says it is dangerous and not recommended.

Karas, who has treated people at the jail for six years, confirmed prescribing the drug to CBS News on Friday, saying that vaccines are a “tremendous asset in the fight against COVID,” but that their availability “does not change the day-to-day reality of caring for sick patients.”

Karas said in an email he obtained ivermectin from a licensed pharmacist “in dosages and compounds formulated for humans” to give to COVID patients.

“I do not have the luxury of conducting my own clinical trial or study and am not attempting to do so. I am on the front line of trying to prevent death and serious illness,” he told CBS News. “I am proud of our track record in both of my clinics and at the jail in particular.”

Karas is now under investigation by the Arkansas State Medical Board. That’s weak sauce — he’s been poisoning his patients, and needs a rather more severe and immediate punishment.

But what the hey, they’re just prison inmates, they probably deserve some mild poisoning.


  1. jsrtheta says

    Actually, they’re not prison inmates. They’re in a county jail, which generally means one of three things:
    1. They are convicted felons either waiting to be transported to an actual prison (or they’re felons who were sentenced to county jail as part of a felony conviction) (I do not know Arkansas law, but such a sentence is possible in many states), or;
    2. They are in jail, not prison, doing a sentence for a misdemeanor conviction, or;
    3. They are in jail awaiting trial on either a felony or misdemeanor charge, and have not been convicted yet of anything.

    So people who have not even been found guilty of a crime could be receiving this dangerous drug.

    This is outrageous.

  2. wzrd1 says

    The only good thing is, when used as indicated, for its indicated usage as an antiparasitic, it does have a good safety profile.
    The bad thing is, if we can’t trust that physician to apply best treatment and prevention practices, how can we trust that he simply misused a valid human prescription drug for an inappropriate condition and didn’t use the less expensive veterinary drug for livestock instead? What other inappropriate non-treatments has he used on unwilling “study participants”?
    I think that his state medical board should examine his “treatment” records quite closely.

  3. cartomancer says

    At the very least he is utterly incompetent, and that should disqualify him from continuing in medical practice. Where did he get the idea that this antiparasitic drug, used to kill off multicellular organisms, would have any effect at all on a virus? There is no evidence of it being effective, no understood mechanism by which it might possibly be, no credible supporting literature to even suggest it’s worth a try.

    So what was his thinking? He heard it from right-wing radio nutcases? He read about it on a facebook conspiracy page? He’s got shares in a company that makes the stuff? Why should anyone trust the medical opinion of someone who gets his pharmacological regimens from such sources?

  4. Becca Stareyes says

    I’d add dosage concerns. Livestock ivermectin isn’t set out for a dose for human adults; you have to calculate a dosage from the animal weight and maybe species (I’m not a vet or otherwise treated anything for parasites). Not to mention that a lot of the people dosing for COVID apparently think they need a stronger and/or more frequent dose than would be appropriate for clearing up parasites… which is where something that has a reasonable side effect profile (when used for its actual approved purpose) can escalate to ‘this will mess you up’.

    Hopefully, the fact it came in pills means it is the human version, at appropriate dosages. Like… the situation is still all kinds of a nightmare, but appropriate dosages of human pharmaceuticals might mean no one gets liver failure from this.

  5. chris61 says

    To say he is ‘poisoning’ patients, seems like a bit of exaggeration – at least based on the linked story. He is using an FDA approved drug for an off-label use. Apparently many doctors around the country are doing the same thing. If any of them are prescribing or providing their patients with drug formulated for animals, then I will agree that they are poisoning patients. More likely they aren’t doing them any good, but not doing them any harm either.

  6. dianne says

    chris61 @6: A physician using an off label drug should have some basis for believing it will be effective and be able to demonstrate that they have a reasonable belief that it may be effective. Not having that makes it malpractice at the least. In the absence of any evidence that the drug could be helpful, the prescription is basically exposing the patient to risk with no benefit. And I think you would agree that the informed consent was grossly inadequate.

  7. kestrel says

    Agree with dianne@#8. If a consenting adult agrees to take part in a trial with a drug that is not approved for that situation, OK, fine. That does not appear to be the case here. People who are in prison are still, you know, people. it’s not OK to just give them drugs just to see what happens.

    Isn’t that something that actual Nazis did? Christ of the Andes.

  8. dianne says

    kestrel@9: Yes, people in jail or prison are considered a vulnerable population on whom experimentation is greatly restricted (not altogether forbidden, but additional safeguards must be put in place.) However, if I understand correctly, the claim was that this wasn’t experimentation but off label use. That has fewer restrictions, but still requires at minimum some evidence that the proposed treatment will work. And consent of the patient. Informed consent of the patient. “Here, this will make you feel better” is not adequate consent, even if the patient is perfectly willing to take the drug, which the people affected here were not.

  9. dianne says

    Also yes, this is something the Nazis did. Sadly, it is not something that ONLY the Nazis did. There are all too many examples in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. It’s supposed to be something that we don’t do anymore EVER. As in, this is a “never again” thing in medical research. You do not ever, for any reason, no matter how benevolent your intent, experiment on people without their consent. You don’t ever, for any reason refuse to tell your patient what drug they’re being given. Ever. That should be an immediate and automatic withdrawal of the perpetrator’s medical license.

  10. dianne says

    Sorry, ranting and multi-posting, but this is exactly the sort of thing that leads people to distrust doctors and I can’t blame them for that under the circumstances.

  11. consciousness razor says

    Yeah, and I remember not so long ago when you bravely came out swinging against gain of function research, as well as the series of lies officials have told about it, which is wildly irresponsible and totally disregards the consent of the billions of people who could be adversely affected…. And you did this, because it was just the right thing to say and an important message that needed to be heard, despite your partisan leanings and your biases in favor of scientists and their work.

    Or was that somebody else?

    It must have been somebody else. My mistake.

  12. raven says

    Ivermectin has been treated like any other drug or vaccine.
    We did a properly designed and run clinical trial in the USA.
    The results were:

    One of the largest trials for the drug was halted earlier this month by a data safety monitoring board, because the drug proved no more effective than a placebo.

    Scientists have done a well designed clinical trial. Ivermectin doesn’t work for Covid-19 virus.

    That the Data Safety Monitoring Board stopped the trial means they didn’t see any indications that the drug had any affect on Covid-19 virus patients.

  13. John Morales says

    cr @13, seemingly, you consider experimentation in vitro is exactly the same as in vivo on human subjects. Me, I see the differences.

  14. says

    Funny, the long-sentence-fetishist from the other day who was cheering on the country’s obsession with sending people to prison, I think it was WAKitty, hasn’t shown up in the comments here to tell us how this is all actually okay.

  15. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #15:
    I don’t know what makes it seem that way to you.

    I don’t think the dangers are equivalent. Indeed, I think GOF is much worse in that respect, not better. And I think the setting in which the experimentation occurs is not the sort of information you need in order to evaluate that. But you seemingly don’t believe you’re raising a spurious objection, so maybe you can explain to me why that’s supposed to matter.

    I do think the lack of consent is basically the same issue, except that the one is on a vastly larger scale than the other.

    Morally and politically, both are extremely problematic, however different in detail they may otherwise be. I have no clue why I should care more about those differences than I should about that. But if I’m just missing something that seems relevant or important, please go ahead and explain it.

  16. consciousness razor says

    For fuck’s sake, religion has nothing to do with it, John. I’ll stop wasting my time, unless you decide it’s worth yours to express something that at least looks like it could be a complete thought.

  17. John Morales says

    cr, you imagined that, because I used that idiom, I was referring to religion?

    From my link: “When the term is used, it can be used to refer to people who try to exercise great authority and power. It is usually pejorative and suggests arrogance, misappropriation of power, or tampering with matters in which humans should not meddle.”

    I’ll stop wasting my time

    Nah. You have form.

  18. Erp says

    I do wonder if the sheriff is close friends with the doctor. The current sheriff, Tim Helder, has been sheriff for a while (since 2005). Washington county, Arkansas, is a pretty good size county with about 240,000 residents (mostly white with a sizable Hispanic minority, 15.5%). Republican but with one blue enclave in Fayetteville.
    It seems unclear whether they weighed the patients; Ivermectin doses are calculated per kilogram of the patient. It certainly seems they were giving multiple doses (for worms it is one pill not to be repeated for at least 3 months, main use for humans seems to be against river blindness).

  19. blf says

    The inmates apparently were told they were being given “vitamins”, Inmates Weren’t Told They Were Given An Anti-Parasite Drug Instead Of COVID-19 Meds:

    Several inmates at a northwest Arkansas jail said they weren’t told a medication they were given to treat COVID-19 was actually an anti-parasite drug that federal health officials have warned should not be used to treat the coronavirus.

    Three inmates at the Washington County jail told The Associated Press they didn’t know they were being given ivermectin until its use at the facility was revealed last week. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which on Wednesday repeated its call for the practice to end, said it’s also heard similar complaints from inmates.

    The inmates’ comments contradict assertions by the sheriff and the jail’s physician that the use of the drug was voluntary. […]

    The drug’s manufacturer, Merck, said in February that it had found no evidence that ivermectin is an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19.

    The American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists on Wednesday called for an immediate end to prescribing and using the drug to treat the coronavirus outside clinical trials.

    Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder, a spokesperson for his office and jail physician Dr[quack] Rob Karas did not respond to calls or emails on Wednesday. Karas last week released a lengthy statement defending the use of ivermectin, saying he had been prescribing the drug to inmates and patients at his clinics since late last year.

    Edrick Floreal-Wooten, an inmate, said he was given ivermectin at the jail after he tested positive on Aug 21.

    “I asked what are they, and they’d just tell me vitamins,” Floreal-Wooten said. “With me being sick and all of us being sick, we thought that they were there to help us. I never thought they would do something shady.”

    Floreal-Wooten said he refused to take the drug last week after seeing a news article about ivermectin being prescribed to inmates.

    Asked whether he would have taken the drug had they told him at the outset it was ivermectin, he responded: “Never. I’m not livestock. I’m a human.”

    The ACLU said it has also heard from several inmates who say they were told the drug was vitamins or steroids.

    In a letter to Helder on Wednesday, the ACLU said some inmates are prepared to file a lawsuit to halt the drug from being prescribed. The group said it was “unconscionable” that inmates weren’t informed they were being given the drug.

    “They have a right to know what they are being given,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said. “This is not a right they forego by virtue of being locked up.”

    Before the jail’s ivermectin use was revealed, the state Medical Board told Karas last month that it received two complaints against him over a post on his clinics’ Facebook page where he said he didn’t believe face masks decreased the spread of viruses, according to documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request.

    Karas told the board in written responses last week that his opinions were based on his 20-plus years of experience and review of the literature through the years.


    Dr Jose Romero, Arkansas’ secretary of health, […] said using any drug off-label would require an agreement between the physician and the patient.

    “I don’t know what agreement has been made,” Romero told reporters at a news conference this week. Romero said the Arkansas Health Department doesn’t endorse [ivermectin]’s use for COVID-

    Apparently then the quack “prescribed” off-label ivermectin not only without informed consent, but outright deception.

  20. says

    Oh, it’s obvious.

    <sarcasm> This doctor (and the Sheriff) thinks all residents of the county are sheep. We are, after all, talking about a region and general county demographic in which “different folk” are “encouraged” to conform to a certain narrow preconception of both what and who is Right and Good. With, of course, a few highly active border collies running around keeping the herd in order. Whatever the person(s) directing the border collies think is correct at any one moment is correct — and mandatory — for not just the herd as a whole, but for each individual member of the herd without any variation at all. And since ivermectin use is well-established for parasitic infections (like r. maddowius) in o. aries, it’s obviously appropriate to treat all other sheep for all other disorders.

    We won’t talk about what happens to the herd a little bit later after its members have been fattened up. Or what happens at and after shearing during life, either. That’s only for Management’s consideration, not for individual sheep to bother their wee little heads with. </sarcasm>

  21. chris61 says

    @14 raven @8 dianne
    According to there are currently six trials taking place in the USA and about two dozen more around the world studying the efficacy of ivermectin. So I don’t think one can say with any confidence yet that it either does or does not work.

    The issue of informed consent is another matter. Doctor was definitely wrong on that front.

  22. Jazzlet says

    @#24 chris61
    You can say with confidence that no trials yet reported^ have shown any noticable effect on metrics relevant to the patient like not getting COVID-19 or only getting mild COVID-19 or not needing intubation or not dying. There have been enough trials for there to be meta-analyses of them, and the best they can say is ” none of these trials show any effect, maybe do some more trials?”. Furthermore although there was apparently an in vitro effect on SARS-CoV-2 it was at concentrations impossible to attain in human blood. So yes we can say with reasonable confidence that it doesn’t work.

    ^ the only exception to this was a paper shown to be fraudulent and withrawn

  23. dianne says

    chris61 @24: If you can find a study that has been completed and is positive, that’s potentially grounds for off-label prescribing. Studies being underway is evidence that you shouldn’t be prescribing it out of the context of a clinical trial: if there are studies ongoing then the question of whether something works is not settled. Off-label prescribing outside of a clinical trial can only be justified if evidence of efficacy and safety can be presented. It has not been for ivermectin in COVID.

  24. dianne says

    Merck doesn’t think ivermectin works. When the manufacturer doesn’t think it works, it’s time to give it up. Merck didn’t get to be a multi-billion dollar drug company by interpreting data pessimistically.

  25. chris61 says

    @dainne 27

    if there are studies ongoing then the question of whether something works is not settled.

    Which is pretty much what I said. in my #24.

  26. says

    On topic, now. Because you got me thinking about it.

    Prisoners should be allowed to participate in medical trials — like, if a prisoner has a rare condition, and meets the requirements to participate in a trial run of a new medication for it, they should be allowed to do the thing for science.

    But never, ever forced.

  27. raven says

    Ivermectin causes male sterility.
    The antivaxxers always claim without proof because it is wrong, that the vaccines cause sterility.
    Strangely enough, their fantasy drug of choice actually does cause male sterility.
    “According to their study, 85 percent of men who take Ivermectin become sterilized.”

    by: Erin Coulehan Posted: Sep 8, 2021 / 08:23 PM EDT / Updated: Sep 8, 2021 / 10:40 PM EDT

    EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The effects of Ivermectin therapy on human males can have an effect on men’s reproductive health.

    Researchers at three universities in Nigeria studied the effects of Ivermectin, which is used to treat river blindness and other medical conditions in humans, on men’s sperm counts.
    According to their study, 85 percent of men who take Ivermectin become sterilized.

    Ivermectin is often used as an anthelmintic to combat parasites in animals and some people have been using it to fight COVID-19 despite health experts’ recommendations against it.

    The study conducted by researchers in Nigeria screened 385 patients with river blindness to investigate the effects of Ivermectin on sperm function.

    The researchers found that 85 percent of all male patients treated in a particular center with ivermectin in the recent past who went to the laboratory for routine tests were discovered to have developed various forms, grades and degrees of sperm dysfunction.

    Dysfunctions include the following:

    Low sperm count
    Poor sperm morphology
    Two heads
    Tiny heads
    Double tails
    Absence of tails
    Albino sperm cells
    Azoospermia, or the absence of motile sperm
    Poor sperm motility
    “There was a significant drop in the sperm counts of the patients after their treatment with Ivermectin,” the study’s authors concluded.
    The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized or approved Ivermectin for treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans or animals.

    But across the country, people have been self-medicating using animal-grade Ivermectin.

    “Never use medications intended for animals on yourself or other people. Animal Ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans. Use of animal Ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous,” reports the FDA.

    Dr. Ogechika Alozie, infectious disease expert in El Paso, said to use tried-and-true methods of COVID-19 treatment.

    “The reality is this: the things that we know work so far, dexamethasone, actemra, remdesivir in the hospital. Things that work before you go to the hospital like antibody infusions and the vaccines have loads more data than Ivermectin,” he said.

    Clinical trials evaluating whether Ivermectin tablets can be used to treat COVID-19 are ongoing, but there is currently no data available to suggest efficacy in fighting the virus.

    Bottom line, vaccines are the best way to combat COVID-19.

    “I get that people are scared, I get that people are worried,” said Alozie. “But it puzzles me that people would use something with such little data compared to something that has such great data and we know works.”

  28. chris61 says

    @32 raven

    ermectin causes male sterility.
    The antivaxxers always claim without proof because it is wrong, that the vaccines cause sterility.
    Strangely enough, their fantasy drug of choice actually does cause male sterility.

    Nope. I was going to write my own reply but Snopes (quoted below) has already covered this one.

    The study in question was not published in a credible journal, nor was it hosted by an accredited, reputable institution. In the decade since the study’s supposed 2011 publication, there has been little — if any — related research to confirm its findings. Furthermore, a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Snopes that infertility in men is not a known side effect of ivermectin and, as such, is not included in U.S. labeling requirements.

    Presumably if you’re going to trust UFDA on vaccine safety, you’ll trust them on this one too.