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The program that provides health care for about half of the U.S. territory’s population cannot afford to cover the drugs.
As the number of people who inject drugs has soared, the rate of hepatitis C infection has climbed steeply, too, because the disease can be tied to sharing needles. Yet many drug patients are not checked for the virus that can damage the liver.
The opioid epidemic has increased the number of donated organs. Until recently, though, organs from donors who died of drug overdoses were often discarded because an estimated 30 percent of them were infected with hepatitis C.
A survey of 49 states reveals that an estimated 144,000 inmates with hepatitis C, a curable but potentially fatal disease, can’t get the expensive drugs they need to cure it.
Proponents say the residencies provide help dealing with increasingly difficult cases, but some nursing groups contend that the programs are not necessary.
About a dozen states have added hepatitis C to the list of medical conditions for which people can face criminal prosecution if they engage in certain activities like sex without disclosure, needle-sharing or organ donation.
Although the potentially fatal disease is common among the incarcerated, treatment with the latest hepatitis drugs isn’t.
This doctor came out of retirement with the goal of treating every patient at high risk for hepatitis C he encounters. The problem is finding them.
One Northern California physician is a foot soldier in the fight against a surge of hepatitis C, mainly among young drug users who share infected needles.
The two FDA-approved manufacturers of the vaccine, hit by an unexpected spike in demand, have had difficulty keeping pace. In San Diego County, home to the deadliest outbreak in the nation, officials are postponing a campaign to give at-risk residents the second of two doses.
The drug, sold under the name Mavyret, can cure all six genetic types of the liver disease in eight weeks at a cost of $26,400, well below other options.
Hundreds of people, most of them homeless, have been infected. In San Diego County, where 17 people have died, critics fault authorities for being slow to act.
Several public health officials endorse using a federal law to slash hepatitis C drug prices in Louisiana and avoid drug bills that could cripple the state budget.
The drugs, approved by the FDA for children earlier this month, can run $100,000 for a course of treatment.
A Seattle program pioneers palliative care that reaches dying patients on streets and in shelters.
Charlie Oen was addicted to heroin as a teenager. At 25, he’s now clean and a peer counselor in Lima, Ohio, where he tries to help people who started using drugs before he was born.
Some churches and other faith-based organizations are offering clean syringes to IV drug users, while still others are voicing their support for comprehensive treatment, testing and education programs that also help stem transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.
Members of the military are more than twice as likely to have contracted hepatitis C than the general population. For many, the effects are felt years after the infection began.
A Miami doctor spent five years working to pass a needle exchange law for Miami-Dade County that he hopes will reduce HIV and other infections. The doctor’s battle inspired a patient who was infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from a shared needle.
Over the past few months, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Delaware and Washington have lifted restrictions on the expensive medications, and private insurers around the country are also making the changes.