Less than 1% of prisoners with hepatitis C in state correctional facilities in the United States are receiving treatment according to a new study in the October issue of Health Affairs conducted by the Association of State Correctional Administrators in collaboration with the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership. The study found that the main barriers to increasing access to care are the high price of the medications, the few policy options available for reducing drug costs for state correctional facilities and the lack of funding for state correctional health services to meet the needs of incarcerated patients.
Caught between costly hepatitis C medications and an enormous need for treatment, prison officials are forced to make difficult decisions about who to treat, explained A.T. Wall ’80, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and a co-author of the study. “Patients and prison officials alike want to cure hepatitis C infections. That requires financial resources and discounts we don’t have. What we desperately need are less costly drugs and more funding.”
Hepatitis C, a liver disease that can lead to severe illness and death, affects 3 million adults in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About one-third of those people spend at least part of the year in correctional facilities. Two new hepatitis C medications, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (sofosvubir/ledipasvir), cure the vast majority of patients. However, they are extremely expensive, with list prices of $84,000 and $94,500 for a 12-week course of treatment of each drug respectively.