Hepatitis C

State Prisons Fail To Offer Cure To 144,000 Inmates With Deadly Hepatitis C

Jul 9, 2018
Creative Commons/Pixabay

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.

Jake Harper / Side Effects Public Media

Hepatitis C cases in Marion County are up so much, the public health department in Indianapolis declared an epidemic. A syringe exchange program is part of the county’s answer. 

In a corner of Jymie Jimerson's house in the town of Sparta, in southwest Missouri, she has set up a kind of shrine. It has Native American art representing her Cherokee heritage alongside Willie Nelson albums, books and photos in remembrance of her late husband.

There's a copy of Willie's mid-'70s LP Red Headed Stranger. "When Steve was young, he had red hair and a red beard, so he always really identified with Willie's Red Headed Stranger," Jimerson says. "I try to keep it up there as a reminder of better days."

Seth Herald / for Side Effects Public Media

On a recent morning in downtown Tippecanoe County Indiana, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for a county commissioners meeting. The issue at hand? Renewing the county’s syringe exchange program.


Jake Harper / Side Effects

Indiana’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Curtis Hill, has accused the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of manipulating facts in order to push a “pro-needle-exchange agenda.” He made the accusation in a statement released Tuesday.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks Indiana among the states with the highest rates of hepatitis C infection, a virus that destroys the liver and leads to liver cancer. Indiana's rate is double the national average with 2 per 100,000 people affected. These people recently tested for and were diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons With Health Problems And No Coverage

Apr 25, 2016

Stacey McHoul left jail last summer with a history of heroin use and depression and only a few days of medicine to treat them. When the pills ran out she started thinking about hurting herself.

"Once the meds start coming out of my system, in the past, it's always caused me to relapse," she said. "I start self-medicating and trying to stop the crazy thoughts in my head."

In one of the most expensive drug ad campaigns of the year (totaling an estimated $100 million) drugmaker Gilead is pushing a hepatitis C drug, Harvoni, that is straining states' healthcare budgets around the country. As STAT reports, Harvoni's  $94,500 per person price tag has raised an outcry among state leaders whose Medicaid budgets can't handle the cost.  

Sovaldi, a relatively new hepatitis C medication, retails at about $1,000 a pill in the United States. But according to the New York Times, Sovaldi's manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, has been selling it for just $10 a pill to the Egyptian government—which gives it to patients for free. 

From the story: 

Sarah Jackson had quit abusing drugs and was sober for six months before finding out she has hepatitis C. The Fort Wayne, Indiana mom says she was newly focused on starting her career and on raising her six kids. The diagnosis came as a shock.

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