Will Prisoners Be Denied New Hepatitis C Drugs?
By Michael Ollove, Pew/Stateline Staff Writer
March 25, 2014
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.”
Fair or not, the cost of the new drugs is likely to keep them out of reach for most infected prisoners. To put the price in perspective, the average annual cost for states to house an inmate is $29,141. The minimal cost of treating a single patient with the new hepatitis C drugs is more than double that amount.
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