This article was sent to me by my good friend attorney Steve Hampton, Esq., who is well aware that Delaware is not treating inmates with Hep C. The issue is an ongoing one in many states, and it represents a health threat to YOU, because it is contagious.
Prison Health Care companies will let inmates die before providing the care they legally are required to provide.
Excerpts from the Article:
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.
“It doesn’t make sense to wait now that we have the effective cure available,” said Dr. Raymond Chung, director of Hepatology and the Liver Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. Chung was a former co-chair of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Diseases of America’s HCV guidance panel, which recommends everyone with chronic hepatitis C have access to the cure.
Corrections departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia were asked how many inmates have hepatitis C, how many are treated, what drugs are used for treatment, and what policies exist concerning inmates with the virus. Almost all of the states responded with some or all of the information requested. South Carolina and D.C. denied the requests.
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 vast undertreatment comes at a time when the infection rate for hepatitis C, or HCV, has been increasing in part due to the opioid epidemic.
Some prisons ignore their own guidelines for standards of care. In Florida, at least 181 inmates who met the criteria for treatment did not get the cure, according to records kept by the Florida Department of Corrections. The department has a 13-page policy that says prisoners are eligible for HCV therapy when the disease reaches Stage 2, which is when the liver shows mild to moderate fibrosis, or tissue scarring.
Since late 2013, new hepatitis C drugs with a success rate of more than 95 percent have become available. But they come with sticker prices of $40,000 to $90,000 for the daily tablet regimen of eight to 12 weeks. These drugs replaced previous therapies that cost around $70,000 for 48 weeks of treatment with a much lower cure rate.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections treated 58 inmates from 2014 to 2016. Dr. David Paulson, medical director of the Minnesota state prison system, said his department cannot afford to do more.
“We have to operate within our means and treat the [prisoners] that are the most advanced first,” he said in an interview. “When prices go down, we will treat more people.”
In California, state officials have allocated $106 million in next year’s budget to treat inmates with hepatitis C.
“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.
“We’rr sick, and they’re doing nothing about it,” Michaelson said.
The constitutional argument over treatment revolves around the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Inmates have nowhere else to turn for health care. States restrict or prohibit any private or outside medical care.
The litigation over this issue is ongoing in Minnesota and Virginia and in at least seven other states, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Approximately 640,000 inmates are released nationwide each year, and that means there could potentially be more than 75,000 HCV-infected people entering the general population annually. Those who didn’t get tested, or treated, while incarcerated would increase the risk of new infections.
“I don’t have a life sentence. I got people that I care about and I want to fix things. I want to live. I wasn’t sentenced to death. Don’t let me die in here.”
The figures in this story came from a survey sent to the departments of corrections in 50 states and the District of Columbia, between October 2017 and March 2018. Some states responded to the survey without FOIA or Open Records requests, and others required a formal request.
The survey asked for: (1) the state prison policy on testing and treating HCV, (2) the HCV drugs in their formulary, (3) the number of inmates with HCV, or the prevalence rate of HCV in the state prisons, and (4) the number of inmates with HCV who were treated in the previous year, or the most recent data available. For states that required records requests, a question about the amount of budget spent on treating inmates with HCV was added to the survey.
All of the states and D.C. responded to the survey in some form. As of publication, 45 states had given complete answers for both the numbers of inmates diagnosed and treated. Arkansas, Hawaii and Missouri responded only to either the prevalence rate or the number of inmates treated. South Carolina and D.C. denied the FOIA requests.
The policies on testing and treating varies greatly by state; some are more restrictive than others in terms of treatment eligibility, giving access to those in advanced stages of disease. Alaska, Georgia, Maine and South Dakota did not have clear written rules for testing or treating HCV. Mississippi had a policy that dated to 2005, almost a decade before the current drugs were introduced.