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U.S. News

Rhode Island: Hepatitis C Treatment Costs Up to $90,000 per Inmate

April 1, 2014

This article was reported by WPRI News.

WPRI News reported that the Rhode Island Department of Corrections will spend $350,000 on hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment for four inmates. The law requires provision of healthcare for prisoners, and officials say that if more inmates meet the new treatment guidelines, then this cost could increase dramatically.

Elizabeth Earls, the Department of Corrections' assistant director of rehabilitative services, said that out of the state's 3,300 inmates, 177 have a known HCV diagnosis; four of these inmates currently qualify for the $90,000-per-patient treatment. The department does not require HCV testing for inmates, so it does not know the true number of cases within the prison population. According to Earls, the new HCV treatment reportedly provides a 95-percent cure rate in three months with few side effects, compared to previous therapies that were only 65 percent effective. The newer treatment also costs seven times more than other therapies, which were approximately $12,000 per inmate.

"I really have no way of predicting what that cost could be," Earls said. "I think the unknown of this is the biggest challenge for us." Earls said only the inmates identified with a higher risk of cancer and liver disease or life-threatening symptoms currently qualify for treatment. If left untreated, the disease could have a higher cost after the prisoners leave prison. "If you have any type of infectious disease and you can cure that infectious disease you would want to do that so that you don't put your own communities at risk when the inmates are released," she said.

Back to other news for April 2014

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Talk to a Physician About HIV/Hepatitis Coinfection in Our "Ask the Experts" Forums
More on the Incarcerated and Hepatitis C

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