Giving Compass’ Take:
• State prisons are not covering the cost of treatment for prisoners who have hepatitis C, which is potentially curable now. Some inmates are filing lawsuits against prisons on the basis that their medical care is a constitutional right.
• How can philanthropy become involved or help in terms of financial support for treatment?
• Read about the phenomenon that inmates who suffer from mental illness and are deemed ‘criminally insane’ are sometimes the ones who receive the best health care in prison.
State prisons across the U.S. are failing to treat at least 144,000 inmates who have hepatitis C, a curable but potentially fatal liver disease, according to a recent survey and subsequent interviews of state corrections departments.
Many of the 49 states that responded to questions about inmates with hepatitis C cited high drug prices as the reason for denying treatment. The drugs can cost up to $90,000 for a course of treatment.
Nationwide, roughly 97 percent of inmates with hepatitis C are not getting the cure, according to the survey conducted for a master’s project at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Advocates say this ignores a 1976 Supreme Court ruling that determined an inmate’s medical care is a constitutional right.
With more than 1.3 million inmates, state prisons house the largest group of incarcerated people in the country — people with a higher risk of passing the bloodborne virus by sharing needles, razors or toothbrushes. The infection rate is much higher among the incarcerated than the general population, partly because nearly one-sixth of state prisoners are serving for drug offenses.
The HCV drugs in 2016 cost more than $50,000 per treatment course per inmate with some discount, according to Brandon Sis, senior pharmacist for corrections at the Minnesota Multistate Contracting Alliance for Pharmacy, which negotiates drug discounts for various agencies nationwide, including 15 departments of corrections. Sis said that the discounted price of the HCV drugs available to state prisons has since been cut by about half, to about $25,000 per treatment course at the end of 2017.
This is a treatable condition. No one should die from HCV,” said Michael Ninburg, president of the World Hepatitis Alliance and executive director of Hepatitis Education Project, an advocacy group for people affected by the disease.
Read the full article about Hepatitis C treatment for prisoners by Siraphob Thanthong-Knight at Governing magazine
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