Oregon Inmates File Suit Over Hepatitis C Treatment
Claiming "civil rights violations, malpractice and fraud," 11 inmates from the Salem, Ore., State Penitentiary on Thursday filed a federal suit against the state Department of Corrections over the state's treatment of prisoners with hepatitis C, the Portland Oregonian reports. In the suit, "one of several" filed across the country recently, the inmates claim that the state's treatment of the liver disease "is designed to exclude inmates from expensive drug therapy," which can cost $10,000 to $25,000 annually per patient, is effective in only 15% to 45% of cases and can have "debilitating" side effects. The inmates, who are all at different stages of hepatitis C treatment and diagnosis, are seeking $17.5 million to fund future treatment for prisoners and "demand[ing]" mandatory blood testing for new inmates. Corrections officials have called the testing measure "extraordinary," saying "no other system in the country" conducts such tests. The Oregonian reports that all of the involved inmates' blood work shows elevated liver enzymes, "an indicator of the disease," and several of the plaintiffs "have requested but not received liver biopsies, the definitive test for hepatitis C" (Wilson, Portland Oregonian, 11/2). A recent study estimated that approximately 18% of state prisoners in the United States have hepatitis C, although the rate is much higher in some individual states (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6). The Oregonian reports that approximately 30% of inmates in the state, or 2,300, have the disease -- which leads to chronic liver disease in 20% of cases and death in 5% of patients -- but estimates "rise as high as twice that many" due to underreporting of the disease (Portland Oregonian, 11/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.