June 29, 2015 — Two prisoners in Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the state for failing to provide a new treatment for hepatitis C that costs nearly $100,000 but is over 90% effective at curing the disease, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The prisoners, Emilian Paszko and Jeffrey Fowler, accuse the prison system of failing to provide Harvoni and Sovaldi, two new drugs made by Gilead Sciences that were approved last year.
The drugs are over 90% effective at curing hepatitis C within 12-weeks, but they come with a $1,000-per-pill price tag. As a result, prisons have followed the lead of state Medicaid and health insurance companies by restricting treatment to all but the sickest patients.
The problem is that hepatitis C is extremely contagious. By the time a patient has the type of liver damage that would qualify them for treatment, they may have transmitted the infection to other people and endured years of pain and suffering.
According to the complaint:
“By not assuming the financial cost of Hepatitis C treatment, defendants are imposing a human cost on the prisoners in their care as well as on the population which will be at risk when these prisoners are released.”
Prison officials are also accused of knowingly failing to test prisoners to see if they need treatment, which has resulted in fewer patients getting the treatment they need. The prisoners are seeking class action status on behalf of all inmates in Massachusetts with hepatitis C who have been denied treatment.
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