New Hepatitis C Drugs Are Very Costly And Unavailable To Many State Prisoners

By Adam L. Beckman, Alyssa BilinskiRyan BoykoGeorge M. CampA. T. WallJoseph K. LimEmily A. WangR. Douglas Bruce and Gregg S. Gonsalves


Prisoners bear much of the burden of the hepatitis C epidemic in the United States. Yet little is known about the scope and cost of treating hepatitis C in state prisons—particularly since the release of direct-acting antiviral medications. In the forty-one states whose departments of corrections reported data, 106,266 inmates (10 percent
of their prisoners) were known to have hepatitis C on or about January 1, 2015. Only 949 (0.89 percent) of those inmates were being treated.

Prices for a twelve-week course of direct-acting antivirals such as sofosbuvir and the combination drug ledipasvir/sofosbuvir varied widely as of September 30, 2015 ($43,418–$84,000 and $44,421–$94,500, respectively). Numerous corrections departments received smaller discounts than other government agencies did. To reduce the hepatitis C epidemic, state governments should increase funding for treating infected inmates. State departments of corrections should consider collaborating with other government agencies to negotiate discounts with pharmaceutical companies and with qualified health care facilities to provide medications through the federal 340B Drug Discount Program. Helping inmates transition to providers in the community upon release can enhance the gains achieved by treating hepatitis C in prison.

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