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Arkansas inmates speak about unknowingly taking ivermectin to treat COVID-19

A doctor is under investigation after inmates at an Arkansas jail were prescribed ivermectin despite heath officials warning against using the drug to treat COVID-19

ARKANSAS, USA — An Arkansas inmate said he and others were given several pills without consent that would help them "get better" in an interview with CBS News.

A doctor is under investigation after inmates at the Washington County jail were prescribed ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, despite federal health officials warning against using the drug to treat COVID-19.

"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."

Floreal-Wooten said inmates asked repeatedly what the pills were. Prisoners were reportedly not aware they were taking the drug until around five days after receiving the first pills.

The FDA said large doses of ivermectin can be "dangerous" and "cause serious harm." Symptoms of overdosing include diarrhea, dizziness, and nausea. The drug is only approved for humans to treat parasites, head lice, and rosacea.

The only reason inmates found out is when news outlets reported Dr. Rob Karas, the jail's physician, was prescribing the drug, according to Floreal-Wooten.

"It was not consensual. They used us as an experiment, like we're livestock," Floreal-Wooten told CBS News. "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."

He said after the news reports, officials finally gave inmates the ability to consent to taking the drug. He said around 20 other inmates declined to take the pills.

At least two other inmates talked to the Associated Press and had similar accounts. William Evans told the news outlet he was given ivermectin for two weeks following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

"They were pretty much testing us in here is all they were doing, seeing if it would work," he said.

Records have been requested from Dr. Karas and the sheriff's office regarding the COVID-19 protocols and care of detainees by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas.

In an interview with TEGNA affiliate KFSM, Karas said inmates weren't forced to take the drug and that many refused medication.

The doctor is now under investigation by Arkansas's medical board.

Floreal-Wooten, who has been in jail since July 17 for a parole violation, said he has had diarrhea and abdominal pain but doesn't want to talk to the medical staff because he doesn't trust them.

He told CBS News he would rather wait until his release in 42 days.

"I'm scared. If you were so willing to put something in my pills and give me a pill without my acknowledgement, you could do the same thing and be deceptive and put it in my juice, my food," he said. "I can't trust any of the medical staff. I can't trust any of the guards."

He said he and 17 other inmates have filed grievances against the doctor, the sheriff, the nurses, and the jail administrator. The ACLU has asked the Washington County Judge to stop allowing the use of ivermectin at the jail.

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.