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Do Prisoners Have the Right to Modern Hepatitis C Treatment?

The Metier Law Firm is here to helpWeeks ago, we told you about a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The organization accused officials of refusing to provide the latest treatment for hepatitis C to inmates infected by the virus. Accusations flew back and forth about humane treatment versus cost and the inmate’s condition, but now the state’s Medicaid department has announced new policy regarding hepatitis C treatment. Was this change inspired by the ACLU lawsuit, or was it policy catching up to the latest technology?

Will Prisoners Receive Modern Hepatitis C Treatment?

Hepatitis C is a disease that can cause cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, it’s a life-threatening infection. In the past the only treatment for it was a year-long regimen of toxic injections with a laundry list of side-effects, this changed around two years ago. The latest treatment on the market can treat hepatitis C with a pill taken for only a few weeks. This new treatment has far few side-effects and a higher cure rate—95 percent compared to 40 percent.

The state’s policy for treating prisoners infected with hepatitis C denied them this new treatment unless they were suffering from advanced liver damage. This meant only 80 inmates out of an estimated infected population of 2,000 got the treatment. This will soon change thanks to a policy shift from Colorado Medicaid.

As of January 1st, patients in need of the latest antiviral drugs for hepatitis C will have them. The move is touted by Medicaid officials as part of the “usual process” to keep up with the changes in medicine. But critics have been asking why prisoners were denied these better treatments were denied to prisoners in the first place.

Many point to the fact that the treatment previously cost anywhere between $84,000 and $50,000 per patient, but recently that price dropped to around $14,000. Critics also point to the ACLU’s lawsuit against the state over this issue as another reason for the sudden policy change. Do you think they’re right?

This update was brought to you by the Colorado safety attorneys at Metier Law Firm—protecting the rights of people in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and nationwide.