July 25, 2003
"It's to the patients' benefit to be more focused," Thomas Shaw-Stiffel, a specialist at Pittsburgh's Center for Liver Diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health System, said, adding that "on the surface, (the reduction) may look ominous, but it may be beneficial." Angus Love, director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, said, "It's disappointing" but added that "[i]t's not surprising, given the [state's] budgetary constraints." The reduction in treatment access for inmates comes at a time when hepatitis C medications are more effective than ever (Fazlollah, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/24). The new drugs -- pegylated interferon combined with ribavirin -- cure approximately 50% to 60% of people with aggressive strains of hepatitis C and about 80% to 90% of people who have less aggressive strains of hepatitis C, according to Shaw-Stiffel. "The problem with hepatitis C is there's nobody to pay for [inmates'] meds after they're out of prison," Dr. Richard Greifinger, a CDC consultant, said, adding, "It's actually dangerous for the patient, I think, to have an incomplete treatment." Government assistance programs cover the costs of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV infection, which also disproportionately affects the prison population, but drugs to treat hepatitis C are not covered by similar programs (Mandak, Associated Press, 7/23).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2003 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.