Expensive Hepatitis C Cure Available; Prisons May Not Be Able To Afford It


A new generation of antiviral drugs has the potential to wipe out the deadly hepatitis C virus in the U.S., 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, Stateline reports. The drugs cost from $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.”

Ahe average annual cost for states to house an inmate is more than $29,000. The minimal cost of treating a single patient with the new hepatitis C drugs is more than double that amount. The two manufacturers, Janssen Therapeutics and Gilead Sciences, defend their prices, saying their medications represent a huge advance in treatment. “The question is if you have a cure rate of approximately 90 percent or higher, is there justification for not treating someone other than the huge cost?” asked Jack Beck, director of the Prison Visiting Project of the Correctional Association of New York, “But no state has the budget to absorb those huge costs.”

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