Georgia, Idaho, and North Dakota Legalize Syringe Services Programs

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

Both the Georgia and Idaho state legislatures have passed laws legalizing Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) in 2019 (Copeland, 2019; Mansoor, 2019; Horn, 2019). These states are just the latest to take measures legalizing SSPs in the wake of the 2015 HIV outbreak amongst People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) in Scott County, Indiana. Other state legislatures considering SSP legalization in their 2019 legislative sessions include Florida (Florida Daily, 2019), Iowa (Filter, 2019), and Missouri (Dohrman, 2019).

(You can find out which states have at least one operating SSP in the Community Access National Network’s monthly publication, The HIV/HCV Co-Infection Watch in the Harm Reduction section)

SSP funding on the Federal level was legalized in 2016 in response to the aforementioned 2015 outbreak under The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 which gives states and local communities, under limited circumstances, the opportunity to use Federal funds to support certaincomponents of SSPs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). How Federal funds can be used is laid out in a 2016 Health and Human Services (HHS) guidance (HHS, 2016).

Medical technician counting needles.

Photo Source: Daily Beast

The efficacy of SSPs has long been established – numerous studies conducted since the 1980s, both in the U.S. and internationally, have shown significant decreases in new HIV and Viral Hepatitis infections amongst PWIDs and overall in areas where SSPs are present. Despite their proven efficacy, SSPs remain controversial, particularly in the U.S., where drug addiction is often viewed less as a disease to be treated, and more as a moral failing to be punished. Around the country, SSPs face extreme pressure and protests from local communities who view SSPs as nuisances that subsidize, promote, and validate drug abuse, rather than for the services they provide.

SSPs provide not only clean syringes in exchange for used ones, they often provide clinical healthcare services, access and referrals to substance abuse treatment programs, STD/STI testing, and linkages to other social services programs by helping clients enroll in programs like Medicaid and SNAP if they are eligible. These services, however, are often overlooked by opponents of these programs who argue that SSPs increase biohazardous needle waste, attract “unsavory” elements (by whom they mean “drug addicts”) into presumably otherwise “decent” neighborhoods, and encourage clients to engage in illicit drug use.

In my experience, arguing with or against those who oppose SSPs is often a Sisyphean effort – those who are unwilling to allow that evidence disproves their deeply held beliefs are no more likely to change their opinions than they are to sprout wings and migrate South for the winter. More often than not, programs that are effective – such as those in Charleston, WV and Orange County, CA – are met with staunch resistance with connections to those in power or who are willing to spend unlimited resources to maintain the edifice that “…everything was all right until this needle exchange showed up, and now our community has gone to Hell!” What makes it worse is that those who oppose SSPs frequently have no alternative solutions to the problem of increasing rates of new HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C infections related to Injection Drug Use, other than, “Well, they should just stop using.”

This kind of thinking is emblematic of the American Way of Dealing with Social Problems: if we pretend hard enough that the problem doesn’t exist, maybe we can make the problem not exist. We’ve been trying that approach for nearly four decades, now, and the problems haven’t gone away; they only gotten worse. Until such time as those who oppose evidence-based solutions in favor of punitive solutions (for which they are always unwilling to pay additional taxes to fund those efforts) finally remove their heads from the sand, we will continue to fail at stemming the increase in infectious diseases spread via Injection Drug Use.

References:

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Study Finds Organ Transplants from Hepatitis C Patients Safe

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found that heart and lung transplants from donors with Hepatitis C (HCV) are safe for transplantation in non-HCV-Infected recipients (Woolley, et al, 2019). The trial results come as more and more organs become available for transplantation from HCV patients.

The presence of the hepatitis C virus in donated hearts and organs for transplantation wasn't an impediment for a successful result for recipients.

Photo Source: NPR, Kateryna Kon/Getty Images

This trial involved the transplantation of 44 organs – 36 lung transplants and 8 heart transplants – after which the patients were treated with Direct-Acting Antiviral therapy to treat the HCV infection within a few hours of the transplant. In 42 of the 44 cases, recipients had a detectable HCV viral load immediately after transplantation. Of the first 35 patients enrolled who completed six months of follow-up, all 35 patients were alive, had excellent graft function, and an undetectable HCV viral load at six months after transplantation. The HCV viral load became undetectable approximately two weeks after transplantation and remained undetectable in all patients.

As the number of new HCV infections continues to grow in almost every state in the U.S., particularly among those with lower-income and in younger generations, as well as increasing rates of overdose deaths, the availability of organs from donors infected with HCV may be increasing, as well. This study, as well as those trials involving other organ transplants, provides more evidence that these transplants are safe, and that the HCV infection can be successfully treated without the recipients experiencing many or any of the short- or long-term deleterious effects related to HCV.

References:

  • Woolley, A.E., Singh, S.K., Goldberg, H.J., Mallidi, H.R., Givertz, M.M., Mehra, M.R., Coppolino, A., Kusztos, A.E., et al. (2019, April 03). Heart and Lung Transplants from HCV-Infected Donors to Uninfected Recipients. The New England Journal of Medicine. Retrieved from; https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1812406

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Purdue Pharma Settles Yet Another Lawsuit

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, have settled yet another lawsuit, this time in Oklahoma, to the tune of nearly $275 million in a case that alleged the pharmaceutical giant and its owners actively ignited and fueled a nationwide opioid epidemic (Goldberg, 2019). The settlement allows Purdue and the Sacklers to avoid a public trial that was scheduled for the end of May.

Well…it allows them to avoid that public trial.

No sooner had the settlement been announced on Tuesday, March 26th, than the New York state Attorney General, Letitia James, filed a civil suit against not only Purdue Pharma, but eight specific members of the Sackler family, and a host of other pharmaceutical companies including manufacturers, distributers, and holding companies (Rabin, 2019).

New York State Attorney General, Letitia James

Photo Source: NY Daily News

And these are just the latest lawsuits faced by prescription opioid makers. States, counties, and municipalities around the nation are taking pages directly out of the 1990s tobacco company lawsuit playbook and applying them to a much more insidious threat: addictive pain relievers passed off as legitimate consumer medications. The charges are strikingly similar in scope, nature, and fact: these companies knowingly sold, distributed, and attempted to increase the popularity of substances they knew to be highly addictive, concealed that information from the public, and did so strictly for financial gain.

This time, however, those files these suits are not just going after the companies who knowingly profited off of the suffering and addiction of human beings; they are naming names, and specifically going after individual family members who, according to filings from a Massachusetts lawsuit that includes dozens of internal Purdue Pharma documents, directed these coverups, attempted to shift the blame onto patients, and shifted hundreds of millions of dollars out of Purdue’s coffers into their own accounts and trusts, including offshore accounts, in efforts to protect that money from being seized (Rabin).

The United States and countries around the world have been paying the price for Purdue and the Sacklers’ greed for over twenty years, despite the settlements, despite the judgments, and despite the attempts at reformulation that led prescription opioid addicts to turn to Injection Drug Use (IDU), learning how to melt down their products, filter out the coating, and inject their deadly drugs directly into their bloodstreams. And yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as local, state, and Federal governments, have been seemingly unable to do what is necessary and pull every prescription opioid drug off the commercial market, restricting it only to palliative usage.

Governments have been paralyzed not by the pharmaceutical companies and their owners directly, but by the “Pain Advocacy” non-profit advocacy groups these companies and their owners directly fund. A report published in 2018 found that fourteen non-profit organizations, mostly representing pain patients and specialists, received nearly $9 million from the drugmakers, while doctors affiliated with those groups received an additional $1.6 million (Perrone & Mulvihill, 2018). Whenever legislation arises that would curb prescription opioid distribution or add another layer of monitoring, these organizations rise to the challenge, going out in force to contact legislators, their largest donors, and speak at public hearings.

And their tales are often harrowing. Lawmakers will hear stories about crippling pain that renders speakers all but immobile, and how nothing had worked to relieve their unbearable pain…until prescription opioids became available for purchase by the general public with a prescription. Since then, those living with chronic pain have finally been able to function normally and live a happy life.

The reality is that these people are not functioning normally. Prescription opioid drugs work because they fundamentally change the chemistry of the brain, specifically the opioid receptors that can stop electric pulses from traveling through your nerve cells when opioids bind with the three major receptors, Mu, Kappa, and Delta. These effects, primarily controlled by the Mu-opiate receptor, are the same whether the opiates are heroin or prescription pills (Akpan & Griffin, 2017).

When these activists speak of being able to function normally, they are deluding themselves; they have become dependent upon opioid drugs in order to function, and the reason why other methods of pain relief “feel” less effective after they’ve been taking prescription opioid drugs is because their chemically altered brain wants to accept no substitutions. They are addicted…just not to the same degree as those they seek to blame for being uncaring about their pain.

I have sat in on and participated in more roundtables and action committees about opioid abuse in the past five years than I have HIV conferences, and the common and incredulously furious refrain I hear from Pain advocates and activists is this:

“Why is my pain not important in this conversation?!”

Every time this phrase, or some variation of it, is forcefully delivered, legislators, organizers, and public health officials and advocates all scurry to assuage the speaker:

“Of course your pain is important. We are trying to make changes that keep chronic pain sufferers in mind.”

I know I am not going to win any friends by saying this – in fact I might just lose a few – but, the cold, hard reality of the situation is this:

Your pain is not more important than the lives of your fellow citizens and pandering to your controlled addiction literally has a body count.

Drug overdose

Photo Source: whitesandstreatment.com

That’s the truth. Nobody’s pain relief should ever come at the cost of human lives, and the reality is that, by continuing to allow prescription opioids to be sold on the commercial market in order to appease the pain lobby, the U.S. and other governments, as well as pharmaceutical companies, the families who own them, the doctors who prescribe opioids, and the people who think their pain is more important are all complicit in creating an international epidemic that kills between 40,000 to 50,000 deaths annually from opioid overdoses (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).

So, while these lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and the Sacklers are all well and good, nothing is going to change if we do not stop allowing these companies to settle the cases to avoid stock losses, start holding them accountable, and pull these drugs from the commercial markets. Until then, the bodies will continue to pile up, prevention, recovery, and treatment efforts will continue to be underfunded by Federal, state, and local governments, and the U.S. will continue to slide further into this epidemic with no end in sight.

Get it together, America.

References:

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Minnesota the Latest State to Lose Correctional HCV Lawsuit

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

Minnesota inmates living with Hepatitis C (HCV) are the latest to win access to curative HCV treatment by way of a costly (to the state) class-action lawsuit (Associated Press, 2019). This latest settlement requires the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC) to screen (more on that, in a minute) all inmate for HCV, provide immediate treatment to all inmates with an advanced stage of the disease or those who have co-morbidities (e.g. – HIV co-infection), and reevaluate every inmate who is denied treatment every six months for possible approval (AP).

Minnesota Department of Corrections

Photo Source: kstp.com

Prior to the terms of this settlement, MDOC only tested inmates for HCV “on request,” meaning that inmates had to specifically request to be tested for the disease and prison officials could approve or deny that request. This type of testing protocol is often used by state DOCs to avoid being legally required to treat inmates for health conditions, which they are Constitutionally required to do under the 8thAmendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. By refusing to test, prisons can plausibly deny that they’re deliberately refusing to treat inmates’ conditions, because they “don’t know” that inmates are infected.

Minnesota is just the latest state whose DOC has failed to convince state and Federal judges of their “it’s just too expensive” argument. Other states, including Florida, California, , and Massachusetts, have failed to provide a reasonable excuse for why the lives of human beings are not worth the cost to treat their illnesses. These class-action suits have, for many years, now, been the only means for inmates to receive the treatment to which they are Constitutionally guaranteed.

This topic and more will be addressed at the Community Access National Network’s 3rdAnnual Community Roundtable on HCV in Correctional Settings. The event will be held on April 17th, 2019, and you can sign up to attend here: http://tiicann.org/events.html#041719

Attendance is free, but space is limited. In addition to in-person attendance, we will also offer teleconferencing for those who are unable to make the meeting in person. Those interested in that option must still register, and more information will be made available closer to the date of the Roundtable.

References:

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Call for Accurate Disease Reporting

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

Every week, I submit to the Community Access National Network five or six potential topics to cover for HEAL Blog along with links from which to start my reporting. After they select my topic, I’ll go to the original source and research more, from there, trying to get various takes on the topic, verify the facts stated, and back up any assertions I make with evidence and citations.

Twice, this year, I have run into issues with reporting: the assertions the writers (and in some cases, state officials) make do not comport with the data they cite.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The first was in January. A story appeared in my daily newsfeed stating:

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Wednesday showed Oklahoma had the highest rates of deaths from complications of the virus and of people living with hepatitis C infections, other than the District of Columbia (Wingerter, 2019).

Now, this struck me as odd, given that, when it comes to Hepatitis C (HCV) statistics, I tend to be very on top of things. So, I fired up a Google search: “CDC Hepatitis C Oklahoma”. I got a couple more hits linking me to similar stories on various news websites, all of which cited this same CDC report. Thinking I’d missed something, I went directly to the CDC website…and their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) website…and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, since they often get lumped together with the CDC. And what I found after an exhaustive search of all three sites was…

Nothing.

And believe me, I tried to find this supposedly recent report that supposedly bumped the state of Oklahoma’s rate of new HCV infections up from being tied for 13th-highest rate of new infections in 2016 (a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 – lower than the national rate of 1.0) up past a staggering 21 states (including states that had tied rates higher than Oklahoma in 2016) and above West Virginia’s rate of 5.1. Their rate of new infections would’ve had to increase by 4.4 points in order to beat out my home state.

An increase of new infections of that magnitude would most certainly have made the rounds within the numerous HCV newsgroups, searches, action committees, and advocacy councils from which I get approximately thirty E-mails a day.

And yet…nothing.

So, I did what any good researcher or reporter would do and contacted each of the writers whose stories cited this alleged report (without providing any links to the CDC’s Viral Hepatitis page or to the report they reference):

Good Evening:

My name is Marcus J. Hopkins, Project Director of the HIV/HCV Co-Infection Watch. I’m writing in regard to a story you reported on [date] in [publication]. I am attempting to find the report from the CDC that you cite in your article, but am having no luck finding this report on the CDC’s website, the MMWR website, or the NIH website. Could you please provide me with a link to this report, so that I can properly cite this in an article I’m working on related to this reporting of a massive increase in new HCV cases in Oklahoma.

I hope all is well, and that I hear from you, soon.

Sincerely,
Marcus J. Hopkins

That request was sent to a total of four different reporters, and was followed up by requesting the source via social media responses on their respective tweets linking to their articles. It is March 14th, as of this writing, and I have yet to receive a single response via any platform from any reporter.

The second instance occurred, today, when another article showed up in my newsfeed; this time, from California. The headline reads, “Upswing in New Cases of HIV, Hep C and STDs Prompts Call for Statewide Task Force” (Knight, 2019)

Again, I was confused by this reporting, because I am pretty on top of those data, as well. When last I checked, aside from a single-year uptick in new infections in 2014, rates of new infection have been on a relatively downward trend since 2010, in California (see chart):

CDC Chart on new HIV infections

(CDC, 2017)

Starting with a rate of new infections of 17.1 in 2010, that rate has decreased in all years except for 2014, when the rate jumped 1.2 points from 14.8 in 2013 to 16.0 in 2014. Since that year, once again, the rate of new infections has continued to decline, finishing at a rate of 15.2 in 2016 (CDC, 2017).

Moreover, this report also asserts that new HCV cases in California were up, as well; and, again, the data considered the gold standard – those provided by the CDC – do not back up this assertion. From 2012-2016, the rate of new Acute HCV infections in the state of California have remained consistent: 0.2 per 100,000 (CDC, 2018).

So, where is the disconnect between the data that are available, and what is being reported? Honestly, I cannot come up with a valid excuse for this kind of reporting. As an advocate for Viral Hepatitis and an activist and advocate for HIV, as well as someone whose job depends on accurate reporting, these kinds of oversights – willful or otherwise – frustrate me to no end. I work very hard, every week, to ensure that the data I report are accurate, and if I discover that I have misreported something or made an error, I go out of my way to ensure that I respond to those instances as quickly as possible.

Why is it important for reporters and researchers to do their due diligence and go the extra mile to back up their statements of fact? For this reason: the data we put forth are going to be used by people who either don’t have the skill, or the wherewithal to do their own due diligence. They’re going to be used by well-meaning activists and advocates when they go to elected and appointed officials and cited as facts. If and when those officials discover that the data being used to argue a point are incorrect, they immediately begin to disregard the efforts of those with whom they do not already agree on an issue.

Worse, still – repeated instances of poorly cited and sourced data are frequently used to discredit those who advocate for increased spending on infectious diseases. If we use incorrect data and do not immediately correct ourselves, we’re shooting ourselves in the collective foot. How are we going to convince officials who are on the fence about the need to legalize, establish, staff, and fund Syringe Services Programs to prevent the spread of HIV, Hepatitis B, and HCV amongst People Who Inject Drugs if we go to them was data that does not support our assertions?

The crux of the issue is this: it is owed to the American public (and, indeed, the world) to accurately report data and describe trends as they relate to infectious disease. When we erroneously report observed increases in new infection rates, only to be proven wrong, citizens and officials, alike, begin to accuse us of being hyperbolic; of being overly dramatic; of overplaying the risk. And the last thing that we need is for those people to be correct.

References:

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Study Finds Evidence That Hepatitis C Changes Brain Structure

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

Research has indicated for many years, now, that Chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) was somehow linked with the development of depression in patients. An estimated 1/3 of HCV patients report having symptoms of depression (Adinolfi, et al, 2017), but few studies had been performed to determined why this was the case.

International Society of NeuroVirology

New research published in the Journal of NeuroVirology sought to discover the “why,” and found some interesting brain structure alterations in patients diagnosed with Chronic HCV. The study used 19 HCV-positive women with mild liver disease and 16 health controls by using extensive neuropsychological testing and cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination. They then followed up with 9 of the 19 HCV-positive patients and 5 controls after 6-7 years and found that the HCV-infected patients had significantly worse fatigue, depression scores, and performance on attention and memory tests than those in the control group (Prell, et al, 2019).

The patients displayed gray matter (GM) atrophy – gray matter being a major component of the Central Nervous System (CNS) – in the bilateral insula (responsible for subjective emotional experiences) and the thalamus (responsible for regulation of consciousness, sleep, and alertness), as well as significant GM volume increases in the cerebellum (Prell). These patients also exhibited structural white matter changes which may contribute directly to a decline in cognitive function.

These findings may be used to further demonstrate that failure to treat HCV early will lead to extra-hepatic (non-liver-related) consequences. The decline in cognitive function and symptoms of depression serve as evidence that, in limiting treatment with Direct-Acting Antivirals to only those with advanced Chronic HCV and liver disease, we are doing direct harm to patients and subjecting them to further co-morbidities and health complications.

These data also have implications for those patients in correctional institutions as state Departments of Corrections (DOCs) have insisted upon treating only the patients whose HCV is the most severe. The excuse from virtually every DOC is that the cost to treat inmates – which has decreased by 75% over the past three years – is too prohibitive to treat all inmates living with HCV. Failing to treat those with HCV with only mild to moderate liver disease was shown, in Prell, to result in long-term impairments to cognitive function and increased incidence of depression, both of which can lead to behaviors that jailers may deem “poor,” resulting in punishments and extended sentences resulting from circumstances that this negligence has created.

The Community Access National Network will again be hosting our annual Community Roundtable on April 17th, 2019. Registration is free, and remote participation access is available. Attendees may register for the roundtable at the following address: https://www.123signup.com/event?id=rxrsc.

References:

  • Adinolfi, L.E., Nevola, R., Rinaldi, L., & Giordano, M. (2017, August). Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection and Depression. Clinics in Liver Disease, 21(3), 517-534. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cld.2017.03.007
  • Prell, T., Dirks, M., Arvanitis, D., Braun, D., Peschel, T., Worthmann, H., Schuppner, R., Raab, P., Grosskreutz, J., & Weissenborn, K. (2019, January 04). Cerebral patterns of neuropsychological disturbances in hepatitis C patients. Journal of NeuroVirology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13365-018-0709-2

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kansas Department of Corrections Agrees to Treat HCV

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant

On April 17th, 2019, the Community Access National Network (CANN) will host its Community Roundtable on the topic of HCV testing and treatment in correctional healthcare settings. I will also be presenting data on behalf of CANN and the ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+) on Monday, April 15th at the SYNChronicity 2019 Conference. This focus on correctional and post-correctional healthcare settings has become something of a passion for me, over the past three years, in no small part because it is the one area where healthcare provision is Constitutionally guaranteed, but often inadequately or insufficiently provided.

Under the 8thAmendment, every inmate in every correctional facility in the United States – be that local, city, or county jail, juvenile correctional facility, or state, private, or Federal prison – is guaranteed the provision of healthcare services as a result of the “cruel and unusual punishment” provision. The Supreme Court ruling in Estelle v. Gamble (1976) established the standard of “deliberate indifference,” meaning that, in order to successfully sue a prison system, inmates must prove that the prison staff (or any of its hired contractors) deliberately denied or delayed treatment to an inmate.

Physician treating an inmate in prison

Photo Source: lohud.com

In the case of Hepatitis C (HCV), this has repeatedly been proven to be the case. In the last two years, alone, there have been no fewer than 16 ongoing lawsuits against state Departments of Corrections (DOCs) in 14 different states. In each of these cases, inmates allege that DOC officials and staff have denied them treatment for their HCV infections for a variety of reasons. In almost every case, DOC lawyers and officials have argued the following: “We can’t afford to treat them.” Those arguments have done little to curry favor with judges, who have consistently found against DOCs, stating that “too expensive” isn’t a sufficient argument when the lives of living human beings are on the line.

As one state after another settles these lawsuits and agrees to treat inmates, the Kansas DOC is taking the belated proactive step of agreeing to treat inmates’ HCV infections before they’re forced to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement. Last week, the Kansas DOC announced that they will be treating “the most dire” of the nearly 600 HCV-Positive inmates, first, and work their way down the list (Salina Post, 2019).

Kansas began testing their inmate population in October 2018, and since that time, have successfully treated 25 inmates with another 35 currently undergoing treatment. KDOC hopes to have treated 100 inmates by the end of June (the end of Kansas’ fiscal year). At an estimated $15,000 per inmate (down considerably from over $65,000 in years past), treating all 591 at once would cost approximately $9m; the state contract with Corizon Correctional Healthcare sets aside only $1.5m per year for treatment costs (1/6 of what would be needed).

The prevalence of HCV in prison populations can range anywhere from 5% to 35% of prison populations, depending on the state, and Kansas actually falls at the lower end of that spectrum with a total of 9,971 inmates and only 591 inmates testing positive for HCV (5.92%). Even so, KDOC wants to ensure that no inmate goes untreated, and is taking positive steps toward meeting that goal.

References:

__________

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized