Some state prisons are not adequately treating hepatitis C-infected prisoners.
In a scathing ruling issued Friday, a federal judge found that Florida corrections officials have a “long and sordid history” of failing to treat inmates infected with the Hepatitis C virus and ordered the state to immediately come up with a plan to properly provide care.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found that the Department of Corrections and its health care contractors had for years refused to treat infected inmates with antiviral medications, known as “direct acting antiviral” drugs, because of the cost.
Between 7,000 and 20,000 of the state’s 98,000 prisoners are believed to be infected with Hepatitis C, but only 13 have been treated with the antiviral drugs since 2013, and three of those who received the treatment were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, according to court documents.
The treatment, which originally cost up to $75,000 when first released in 2013, now costs about $37,000 for a 12-week regimen and cures the virus 95 percent of the time.
But in a harshly worded 32-page order, Walker wrote that cost is no excuse for not providing the treatment, scolding the agency for being “deliberately indifferent” to the medical needs of inmates, a violation of their constitutional rights.
“Preventable deaths from HCV (Hepatitis C virus) are occurring within the prison system,” he wrote.
Walker ordered the department to update its Hepatitis C treatment policy and to formulate a plan to implement the policy by screening, evaluating, and treating inmates in line with directions and timelines set out by its expert witness.
And he told the corrections agency to come up with the plan “with alacrity,” writing in the order that “this court will not tolerate further foot dragging.”
Read full article: State prisons ordered to treat hepatitis C
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