Breaking News
January 19, 2019 - 4.6 percent of Massachusetts residents have opioid use disorder
January 19, 2019 - New study suggests vital exhaustion as risk factor for dementia
January 19, 2019 - New antibiotic discovery heralds breakthrough in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria
January 19, 2019 - Ural Federal University scientists synthesize a group of multi-purpose fluorophores
January 19, 2019 - Researchers identify new therapeutic target in the fight against chronic liver diseases
January 19, 2019 - Preparation, characterization of Soyasapogenol B loaded onto functionalized MWCNTs
January 19, 2019 - FDA Approves Ontruzant (trastuzumab-dttb), a Biosimilar to Herceptin
January 19, 2019 - Tobacco use linked with higher use of opioids and sedatives
January 19, 2019 - Study delves deeper into developmental dyslexia
January 19, 2019 - Anti-vaccination movement one of the top health threats in 2019 says WHO
January 19, 2019 - Newly developed risk score more effective at identifying type 1 diabetes
January 19, 2019 - Highly effective protocol to prepare cannabis samples for THC/CBD analysis
January 19, 2019 - Prinston Pharmaceutical Inc. Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Irbesartan and Irbesartan HCTZ Tablets Due to Detection of a Trace Amount of Unexpected Impurity, N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) in the Products
January 19, 2019 - How does solid stress from brain tumors cause neuronal loss, neurologic dysfunction?
January 19, 2019 - $14.7 million partnership to supercharge vaccine development
January 19, 2019 - Ian Fotheringham receives Charles Tennant Memorial Lecture award
January 19, 2019 - Brain vital signs detect neurophysiological impairments in players with concussions
January 19, 2019 - Lack of job and poor housing conditions increased likelihood of people attending A&E
January 19, 2019 - Novel targeted drug delivery system improves conventional cancer treatments
January 19, 2019 - Rutgers study finds gene responsible for spread of prostate cancer
January 19, 2019 - Complications Higher Than Expected for Invasive Lung Tests
January 19, 2019 - 3-D printed implant promotes nerve cell growth to treat spinal cord injury
January 19, 2019 - Automated texts lead to improved outcomes after total knee or hip replacement surgery
January 19, 2019 - Poor cardiorespiratory fitness could increase risk of future heart attack, finds new study
January 19, 2019 - Drinking soft drinks while exercising in hot weather may increase risk of kidney disease
January 19, 2019 - Formlabs 3D prints anatomical models
January 19, 2019 - Heart-Healthy Living Also Wards Off Type 2 Diabetes
January 19, 2019 - Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media (for Parents)
January 19, 2019 - Metabolite produced by gut microbiota from pomegranates reduces inflammatory bowel disease
January 19, 2019 - Researchers examine how spray from showers and toilets expose us to disease causing bacteria
January 19, 2019 - Behavioral experiments confirm that additional neurons improve brain function
January 19, 2019 - New study compares performance of real-time infectious disease forecasting models
January 19, 2019 - Obesity can be risk factor for developing renal cell carcinoma, confirms study
January 19, 2019 - New regulation designs on cigarette packs direct smokers’ attention to health warnings
January 19, 2019 - QIAGEN receives first companion diagnostic approval in Japan
January 19, 2019 - Study explores role of Dunning-Kruger effect in anti-vaccine attitudes
January 19, 2019 - Newly identified subset of immune cells may be key to fighting chronic inflammation
January 19, 2019 - New immune response regulators discovered
January 18, 2019 - Poor blood oxygenation during sleep predicts chance of heart-related death
January 18, 2019 - First international consensus on the diagnosis and management of fibromuscular dysplasia
January 18, 2019 - Rapid resistance gene sequencing technology can hasten identification of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop artificial enzymatic pathway for synthesizing isoprenoids in E. coli
January 18, 2019 - Scientists advise caution in immunotherapy research
January 18, 2019 - How children across the world develop language
January 18, 2019 - Columbia Medical Student Receives McDonogh Scholarship
January 18, 2019 - Secretive ‘Rebate Trap’ Keeps Generic Drugs For Diabetes And Other Ills Out Of Reach
January 18, 2019 - Plant based diet could be the best option for the planet says commission
January 18, 2019 - New conservation practice could reduce nitrogen from agricultural drainage, study shows
January 18, 2019 - UIC researchers receive $1.7 million NCI grant to study Southeast Asian fruit
January 18, 2019 - New study determines the fate of DNA derived from genetically modified food
January 18, 2019 - Scientists develop new gene therapy that prevents axon destruction in mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds critically low HPV vaccination rates among younger adolescents in the U.S.
January 18, 2019 - Brain cells involved in memory play key role in reducing future eating behavior
January 18, 2019 - Risk for Conversion of MS Varies With Different Therapies
January 18, 2019 - Investigational cream may help patients with inflammatory skin disease
January 18, 2019 - Medical school news office receives six writing awards | News Center
January 18, 2019 - County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing
January 18, 2019 - Research reveals risk for developing more than one mental health disorder
January 18, 2019 - Scientists discover a dramatic pattern of bone growth in female mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds link between lengthy periods of undisturbed maternal sleep and stillbirths
January 18, 2019 - New nuclear medicine method could improve detection of primary and metastatic melanoma
January 18, 2019 - Combination therapy shows high efficacy in treating people with leishmaniasis and HIV
January 18, 2019 - Health Tip: Don’t Ignore Changes in Skin Color
January 18, 2019 - Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
January 18, 2019 - Eliminating the latent reservoir of HIV
January 18, 2019 - Pain From The Government Shutdown Spreads. This Time It’s Food Stamps
January 18, 2019 - Newly discovered regulatory mechanism helps control fat metabolism
January 18, 2019 - New rapid blood tests could speed up TB diagnosis, save the NHS money
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop intelligent system for ‘tuning’ powered prosthetic knees
January 18, 2019 - Monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab prolongs survival in patients with squamous cell carcinoma
January 18, 2019 - Microrobots could one day deliver drugs inside the body
January 18, 2019 - Maintaining an active lifestyle in older age could prevent dementia
January 18, 2019 - New research detects mosquito known to transmit malaria for the first time in Ethiopia
January 18, 2019 - Researchers identify new genes linked to development of age-related macular degeneration
January 18, 2019 - Computerized method helps better protect pharma patents
January 18, 2019 - New guidelines to make swallowing safer for people in Australian nursing homes
January 18, 2019 - Lumex Instruments’ RA-915AM monitor installed at Hg treatment plant in Almadén, Spain
January 18, 2019 - ACCC survey finds multiple threats to growth of cancer programs
January 18, 2019 - Meeting the challenge of engaging men in HIV prevention and treatment
January 18, 2019 - Furloughed Feds’ Health Coverage Intact, But Shutdown Still Complicates Things
How to treat inmates with hepatitis C

How to treat inmates with hepatitis C

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

In a corner of Jymie Jimerson’s house in the town of Sparta, in southwestern Missouri, she has set up a kind of shrine. It has Native American art representing her Cherokee heritage alongside Willie Nelson albums, books and photos in remembrance of her late husband.

There’s a copy of Nelson’s mid-’70s LP “Red Headed Stranger.”

“When Steve was young, he had red hair and a red beard, so he always really identified with Willie’s ‘Red Headed Stranger,’” Jimerson said. “I try to keep it up there as a reminder of better days.”

Her husband, Steve Jimerson, was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for his role in the shooting deaths of two men. Jimerson said her husband’s life had been ravaged by drug abuse. But after he entered prison, he got off drugs and become a mentor for other inmates.

“Once he got inside, recovery became his life,” Jimerson said. “And that was his passion until the day he died.”

Steve Jimerson died on Jan. 6, 2017, of complications from hepatitis C, a liver infection that’s especially widespread among prison inmates. He was 59.

While the disease is common among the incarcerated, treatment with the latest hepatitis drugs isn’t.

Civil liberties groups in Missouri and at least seven other states are now suing to get more inmates treated with new-generation hepatitis C drugs that are highly effective but also costly.

After Steve Jimerson was diagnosed with hepatitis C in prison, his widow said, he was on the lookout for news of treatment advances.

In 2013, Gilead Sciences introduced Sovaldi, the first of a new generation of drugs called direct-acting antivirals that can cure hepatitis C and with fewer side effects than the previous treatments. But the excitement was dampened by the drug’s price. A full course of treatment carried an $84,000 price tag.

In 2016, around 5,000 inmates in Missouri’s prisons had hepatitis C, and no more than 14 of them received the drugs, according to internal state data obtained by the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center in St. Louis. That’s about 15 percent of the 32,000 people incarcerated in Missouri’s prisons.

Jimerson said that her husband wasn’t given direct-acting antivirals. By the fall of 2016, his health was deteriorating rapidly, and he grew pessimistic about the prospects for a cure.

“He told me that if someone had to die to get the DOC [Department of Corrections] to change their policy, he was OK with it being him,” she said.

As recently as 2012, scores of Missouri inmates were being treated with older hepatitis C drugs, including one called interferon that is notorious for its debilitating side effects. But in 2013, the Federal Bureau of Prisons started changing treatment guidelines to replace the old hepatitis C drugs with new ones.

Many states follow those guidelines, including Missouri, according to a spokesperson from Corizon Health, the private company that provides health care for Missouri’s inmates.

But the updated guidelines gave prisons more leeway to decide when it’s appropriate to provide treatment. And as Missouri phased out the old drugs, it hasn’t used the new drugs nearly as often. That has left only a handful of inmates getting any hepatitis C drug treatment at all.

In December 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union and MacArthur Justice Center sued to get the Missouri Department of Corrections to provide direct-acting antiviral drugs to inmates with hepatitis C who qualify for treatment.

ACLU lawyer Tony Rothert said the state’s current treatment practices violate the U.S. Constitution’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, part of the Eighth Amendment.

“The Supreme Court has said that in the context of medical care, that means that prisons cannot be deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs,” Rothert said. “Hepatitis C fairly easily satisfies this test, because if left untreated, there’s a fair chance that you will die.”

Advocates making this argument got a big boost for their case in November 2017, when a federal judge in Florida ordered that state’s prisons start providing direct-acting drugs to its inmates at least until that state’s case goes to trial in August.

“It was a great victory for people who are incarcerated and have hepatitis C because now we have a federal judge who said, ‘Look, this is just unconscionable,’ and the state is going to have to do something about it,” said Elizabeth Paukstis, public policy director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable.

In July 2017, the Missouri lawsuit took a leap forward when the judge overseeing the case certified it as a class action on behalf of state inmates with hepatitis C. The Missouri Department of Corrections and Corizon, which are defendants in the lawsuit, have appealed that ruling.

Both the Missouri Department of Corrections and Corizon declined to comment on the suit or answer questions about their hepatitis C treatment protocols beyond saying they are following federal guidelines.

But if Missouri and other states are required to offer the new drugs, they would face a huge problem, said Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. “Even if they wanted to treat patients, they would break the bank. They would run out of money to treat every other medical condition,” he said.

For example, if Missouri gave the 2,500 inmates that the ACLU says are candidates for Harvoni, the direct-acting antiviral drug it now uses, the cost would exceed $236 million, based on its list price. That far exceeds the Department of Corrections’ entire budget for inmate health.

Gonsalves said the emergence of newer, cheaper drugs could help, and some state prison systems have managed to negotiate discounts.

Even at a lower cost, though, providing these drugs on a large scale could still cost states a fortune. But advocates insist it’s worth it to stop the disease from spreading. And a 2015 study showed that as many as 12,000 lives would be saved if inmates across the country were screened and treated; preventing liver transplants and liver disease would save money in the long run.

“The impetus for treating infectious disease in the prison system is that it’s a population you can reach, it’s a population you can cure, and it’s a population you can help prevent onward infections from,” Gonsalves said.

Jymie Jimerson understands that many people might be skeptical about providing expensive health care for prison inmates. But she hopes they can see them as more than people convicted of crimes, she said.

“I’m not condoning what they did. I’m not condoning criminals,” Jimerson said. “What I’m saying is, they’re human beings. And there are hundreds, hundreds of first-time offenders that this medication would cure them. So that when they went home, they could actually spend time and enjoy a little bit of life with their families.”

This story is part of a partnership that includes KCUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles