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5,000 inmates with hepatitis C sued Pa. prisons. Now, they’re on their way to getting treatment

November 19. 2018 , Samantha Melamed - The Philadelphia Inquirer

In 2013, a cure for hepatitis C — a chronic viral infection that, if untreated, can lead to fatal liver disease — was brought to market. But who would get the $100,000 lifesaving treatment? That's been a subject of political and legal battles ever since.

In May 2017, the Wolf administration announced that Pennsylvania would expand Medicaid coverage of the treatment to anyone with hepatitis C, instead of treating only those with signs of liver damage.

Now, through a legal settlement filed for approval Monday in federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, approximately 5,000 incarcerated Pennsylvanians who have hepatitis C would also have access to direct-acting antiviral drugs, which are effective in about 95 percent of cases.

"We believe that this settlement, if approved by the court, will be a landmark in medical care in our state prisons and will greatly advance public health in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania [Department of Corrections] has taken an important step in health care that puts them at the forefront of care for people with chronic hep C," said David Rudovsky, a Philadelphia civil-rights lawyer who filed the lawsuit with the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and the Dechert law firm.

It will, in fact, make access to hepatitis C treatment in Pennsylvania prisons better than what's available to those on Medicaid in some states.

Treatment, which will begin with the most advanced cases, will extend to everyone with hepatitis C in prison by June 30, 2022, under the agreement.

Read more about the changes here!

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