The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Washington County Detention Centre in Arkansas after a group of men detained at the facility claimed they were experimented on with Ivermectin to see if it is effective in treating Covid-19.
According to CBS News, the men claim that medical staff at the facility gave them the anti-parasitic drug without their consent, allegedly telling them that the pills were "vitamins."
Ivermectin became a controversial fixture in Covid-19 treatment discussions when right-wing media figures and anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists began pushing the drug as an effective treatment for Covid-19. The pro-Ivermectin crowd were mocked for hawking horse dewormer – which some of them did – though Ivermectin is administered to humans as an anti-parasite treatment.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly issued warnings against using Ivermectin to treat Covid-19. Individuals who used Ivermectin meant for animals ran the risk of overdosing on the drugs.
The National Poison Data System, which collects data from the nation's 55 poison control centres, reported there was a 245 per cent leap in reported exposure cases related to Ivermectin between July and August of 2021, from 133 to 459.
The jail told CBS it could not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that medical staff at the jail were given Ivermectin as early as November 2020, and that the men were not made aware of what they were given until after they had taken the drugs.
Tim Helder, a local county sheriff, confirmed at a local finance and budget committee in August that the facility's doctor, Dr Robert Karas, administered the drug.
The drugs were allegedly called "vitamins," "antibiotics," and or "steroids" by medical staff.
"The truth, however, was that without knowing and voluntary consent, Plaintiffs ingested incredibly high doses of a drug that credible medical professionals, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all agree is not an effective treatment against COVID-19," the lawsuit claims.
The inmates involved in the lawsuit have requested a medical evaluation by an independent expert and that they be "awarded their costs, fees, and any other appropriate relief to which they are entitled."
The detention facility said it could not comment on the ongoing legislation.
The ACLU of Arkansas legal director, Gary Sullivan, issued a statement saying that "no one - including incarcerated individuals - should be deceived and subject to medical experimentation."
"Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide food, shelter, and safe, appropriate care to incarcerated individuals," Mr Sullivan said. "...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."
CBS News spoke with one of the inmates, Edrick Floreal-Wooten, who said that he and others were given the drugs without their consent.
"It was not consensual. They used us as an experiment — like we're livestock," he said. "Just because we wear stripes and we make a few mistakes in life, doesn't make us less of a human. We got families, we got loved ones out there that love us."
The lawsuit claims that the men were given "high doses" of Ivermectin, and were administered the pills twice a day.
Mr Floreal-Wooten was given 3.4 times the approved dosage over the period of four days, the lawsuit claims.