Subsidies requested for treating inmates with hepatitis C

January 23, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is seeking increased funding from lawmakers to treat prisoners with hepatitis C.

The department estimates more than 3,000 of the state’s inmates have the viral infection that’s dispersed through blood contact, which affects the liver, The Journal Record reported.

Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott said that under the current funding, amounting to just over half a billion dollars, inmates receive treatment for their symptoms but few are getting the direct antiviral medication they need.

“It doesn’t matter how mad at them society is, or how scared of them society is,” Elliot said. “We are still entrusted to feed them, to house them. If they’re sick, we’ve got to take care of them.”

Elliott said the 12-week antiviral treatment is expected to cost nearly $92 million in total. The medication also has to be tailored to each patient’s genetic makeup.

Most people become infected by sharing needles for intravenous drug use with someone already carrying the virus, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Long-lasting hepatitis C can cause liver damage, failure or cancer. Symptoms, if they ever appear, include fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

About one-third of people who have hepatitis C pass through the corrections system each year, according to a 2015 study conducted at Yale University’s School of Medicine department.

Oklahoma lawmakers are projected to have about $612 million in new revenue to appropriate to state agencies during the legislative session that begins Feb. 4.


Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

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