Pennsylvania agrees to deal for inmate hepatitis C treatment
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s prison system is moving to settle a lawsuit by agreeing to provide an expensive prescription drug treatment regimen for prisoners who suffer from chronic hepatitis C infections.
The Corrections Department and lawyers for thousands of inmates filed a proposed settlement this week of a 4-year-old federal class action lawsuit.
The deal calls for the state to provide direct-acting anti-viral drugs, giving priority to those with the most serious conditions. The department says the average per-patient treatment cost is about $20,000.
The agreement must be reviewed by prisoners who are members of the class, giving them a chance to object, before the presiding judge will decide whether to approve it.
Attorney David Rudovsky, who represents the inmates, called the settlement deal “a landmark in medical care in our state prisons” and predicted it will advance public health in the state.
Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal viral infection that attacks the liver, but the direct-acting anti-viral drugs cure most cases when administered.
Under the settlement, officials hope to have every affected inmate treated by mid-2022.
Corrections spokeswoman Amy Worden said the department has already provided complete treatment of direct-acting anti-viral drugs to 650 inmates with the most serious stage of hepatitis C, and are currently providing the drugs to more than 100 others with the next-worse stage.
The Corrections Department also has begun a partnership with Temple University to give inmates with hepatitis C access to the university’s medical professionals while in prison and after they are released.
The prison system has $13.2 million to spend on hepatitis C care during the current budget year.
Under the proposed agreement, the state will pay $195,000 for the plaintiffs’ lawyers.