The Arkansas State Medical Board is investigating a doctor who used ivermectin to treat his patients, as well as inmates at the Washington County jail, suffering from Covid-19.
The board said Friday that it has an open probe into Dr. Robert Karas, who owns Karas Health Care, which has facilities in Fayetteville and Lowell and provides medical services to detainees at the jail.
"Once the investigation is complete, the information will be provided to the full Board to review and to be discussed at the next scheduled Board Meeting," board Director Amy Embry said in a statement. "No additional information is available at this time."
Karas declined to be interviewed Friday because of his schedule but said in an emailed statement that he began using the drug in late 2020 to treat patients and inmates "who had become significantly sick from Covid."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have warned against using ivermectin to treat or prevent Covid. On Thursday, the CDC said that there has been a rise in calls to poison control centers for reports of overdoses after people have taken the drug.
The FDA on Saturday urged people to stop taking it. It said that while FDA-approved ivermectin tablets can treat certain conditions caused by parasitic worms in humans, the drug is not an approved medication for the coronavirus. Generally, ivermectin is used to treat or prevent parasites in animals.
"You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it," the FDA tweeted, alongside a consumer update detailing why the drug can be unsafe for humans.
Karas said he is aware of the FDA and CDC warnings.
"In my medical judgment, weighing the known risks and side effect profile of ivermectin against the potential benefits supports the administration of Ivermectin," he said in the statement. "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.
"I am proud of our track record in both of my clinics and at the jail in particular, where not one single patient of the five hundred plus who have followed our plan of care has been hospitalized, intubated or died."
Karas said he obtained the drug from a licensed pharmacist in dosages and compounds "formulated for humans."
He said he encourages people to get vaccinated against the virus and advised against self-administering ivermectin.
"I do not own an interest in any pharmacy and receive no benefits whatsoever from prescribing Ivermectin," he said. "I have no ambitions or agenda other than caring for the sick."
He did not respond to questions about the state medical board's investigation.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Sheriff Tim Helder recently defended Karas, saying he feels "pretty good" about the quality of care the doctor has provided.
“Whatever a doctor prescribes, that is not in my bailiwick,” he told members of the Washington County quorum court, the county’s governing body.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas slammed the sheriff and said the jail has failed to provide "safe and appropriate treatments" for inmates.
“No one - including incarcerated individuals - should be subject to medical experimentation," Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement. "Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide food, shelter and safe, appropriate care to incarcerated people. The FDA has said that misuse of ivermectin for COVID-19 can cause serious harm including seizures, comas, and even death."
The union said it has requested records from Helder and Karas related to inmates and Covid precautions and care.