Study Suggests Prisons Use Expensive Hep C Drugs

By John Lavitt 11/20/14

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health strongly suggests that prisons use the ultra-expensive Sofosbuvir to treat HCV.

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In the latest online edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, a new study strongly recommended the use of Sofosbuvir, the notoriously expensive Gilead HCV drug regimen with the brand name Sovaldi, to treat rampant HCV infection rates in U.S. prison populations.

Although Sovaldi has been demonstrated to be highly effective, its cost has gained as much publicity as the drug’s success. Known as the $1000 pill, it is doubtful whether such a regimen could ever be used to treat hepatitis C infections in incarcerated populations. 

Although the researchers found a large improvement in health status of patients with extreme liver damage due to HCV, particularly with respect to decompensated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, the cost of treating prison populations without a special dispensation from Gilead would be astronomical. The researchers of the study actually disagree with the cost challenge by raising the issue of the greater cost of treating incarcerated populations with chronic infections.

According to the study, for each additional life year for each inmate with the infection, the cost to the prison increased by up to $28,800. The authors argue that this makes the treatment regimens cost-effective, but question whether it is affordable.  The study lacks information about the cost savings from avoiding treating complications, reinfection, and ongoing spread of the HCV infection in a prison population.

According to HealthDay, there are more than half a million inmates in the U.S. that currently have hepatitis C. Although overwhelmed by the rampant spread of HCV in prison populations, states recoil when confronted with the price. Most officials—particularly elected officials having to face a voting populace that does not want to spend financial resources on curing prisoners—do not see the new expensive HCV drug regimens being used in prisons.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.