Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Hepatitis C Cure May Be Too Expensive for Prisoners – Stateline

Surely, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we can find a way to provide basic health care for all.
And this includes prisoners, they too are human beings.

 

Hepatitis C Cure May Be Too Expensive for Prisoners – Stateline.

If used widely, a new generation of antiviral drugs has the potential to wipe out the deadly hepatitis C virus in the United States. But the high price of the drugs might prevent their use in prisons, which house as many as one-third of those who are infected.

The drugs cost anywhere from about $65,000 to $170,000 for a single course of treatment—between three and nine times more than earlier treatments. Ronald Shansky, former medical director of the Illinois prison system and founder of the Society of Correctional Physicians, described that price as “extortionarily high, criminal.”

HIV Precedent
States and municipalities typically pay for prisoner health care out of their corrections budgets. When effective HIV treatments emerged in the late 1990s, those budgets grew to accommodate the cost of the drugs, said Edward Harrison, president of National Commission on Correctional Health Care, which sets standards for prisoner health care.

But the new hepatitis C medications present a much bigger challenge. “The prevalence of HCV [hepatitis C) is 10 times greater than HIV and the cost of treatment is probably 10 times greater than a year’s worth of treating HIV,” said Anne Spaulding of Emory University, one of the leading researchers on hepatitis C in prisons.

 

The new hepatitis C drugs and others in the pipeline could be the “straw that breaks the back of corrections” and force large-scale changes in penal systems. Already, as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, California has had to reduce its prison population by tens of thousands because of inadequate health care. Spaulding said she can foresee the high costs of medicine could force cuts in prison populations across the United States.

Another possibility, she said, would be to create a different mechanism for paying for prison health care, perhaps by extending Medicaid to jail and prison populations.

One thing is clear: The goal of eradicating hepatitis C won’t be achieved unless the campaign involves prisons.

“Because of these new drugs, the conversation about eliminating hepatitis C is finally happening,” said Ninburg of the Hepatitis Education Project. “But if it’s going to be eliminated, we are going to have to address hep C in the correctional setting.”

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March 26, 2014 - Posted by | health care | , , , , ,

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