FAYETTEVILLE -- A federal judge has consolidated two lawsuits over the use of ivermectin to treat covid-19 at the Washington County jail.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit in January on behalf of four former detainees who claim they were unknowingly given ivermectin at the jail to treat covid-19 without being told the nature, contents or potential side effects of the drug. The lawsuit says they were told the treatment consisted of vitamins, antibiotics and/or steroids. The lawsuit contends detainees were given ivermectin as early as November 2020 and didn't become aware of what the treatment was until July 2021.
Plaintiffs in the case include Edrick Floreal-Wooten, Jeremiah Little, Julio Gonzales and Dayman Blackburn, who were housed in a quarantine block at the jail.
U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks granted an order Thursday adding claims by Thomas Fritch.
Fritch sued, without a lawyer, making the same allegations and, critically, Fritch is still at the jail.
That's important because the move to consolidate was, at least in part, to blunt a defense argument the court doesn't have jurisdiction to hear the case because the plaintiffs are no longer detainees in the jail.
Floreal-Wooten, Little, Gonzales and Blackburn were transferred from the jail to the Arkansas Department of Correction, according to the defendants, and courts have held an action seeking an injunction to alter prison conditions becomes moot once the plaintiff transfers to another facility.
Fritch is now represented by the same lawyers who filed the ACLU lawsuit.
Lawyers for the detainees said the cases are both based on the same facts, conduct, policies and procedures as well as the same defendants and legal issues.
Defendants include Tim Helder, in his official capacity as sheriff; Karas Correctional Health; Dr. Robert Karas; and the Washington County Detention Center.
The Arkansas State Medical Board last week voted to take no action against Karas over prescribing detainees ivermectin. The board's investigation of Karas centered on informed consent and whether the detainees knew they were being given the dewormer as part of a medication regimen for the virus.
The Medical Board hasn't taken a stance on the off-label use of ivermectin as a treatment for covid-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing covid-19 in humans, according to the lawsuit. It's approved to treat some parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions but isn't an antiviral drug.