Breaking News
March 22, 2018 - HORIBA’s Microsemi CRP analyzer improves quality of care in emergency pediatric units, study shows
March 22, 2018 - Range of Vaginal Dryness Products Can Help Postmenopausal Women: Study
March 22, 2018 - Higher Dose Tx Deemed Safe in Pulmonary TB
March 22, 2018 - Diet soda associated with higher odds of diabetic retinopathy
March 22, 2018 - LSD reduces ‘sense of self’
March 22, 2018 - Vitamin D deficiency linked to metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women
March 22, 2018 - Changes in the intestines may be responsible for reversal of diabetes after bariatric surgery
March 22, 2018 - iPads and Cancer; Clot Retrieval and Stroke: It’s PodMed Double T!
March 22, 2018 - Premature births linked to changes in mother’s bacteria
March 22, 2018 - Brain SPECT scans predict treatment outcomes in patients with depression
March 21, 2018 - Researchers succeed in integrating artificial organelles into cells of living organism
March 21, 2018 - Researchers discover ‘missing mutation’ in severe infant epilepsy
March 21, 2018 - Researchers develop statistics-based computational scheme to zoom in on brain function
March 21, 2018 - Verge joins Genomics England’s Discovery Forum industry partnership
March 21, 2018 - Trovagene Announces First Patient Successfully Completes Cycle 1 of Treatment with PCM-075 in Combination with Low Dose Cytarabine (LDAC) in AML Trial
March 21, 2018 - Congenital Cardiac Cath Tx Often Strays from Guidelines
March 21, 2018 - Marked increase in cardiovascular risk factors in women after preeclampsia
March 21, 2018 - New app may help predict, track manic and depressive episodes in bipolar patients
March 21, 2018 - Discovery of genes could lead to development of novel therapies for EBV-related cancers
March 21, 2018 - High-fat, high-cholesterol diet depletes ranks of artery-protecting immune cells
March 21, 2018 - Research misconduct allegations shadow likely CDC appointee
March 21, 2018 - Most Breast Ca Patients Fail to Get Genetic Counseling
March 21, 2018 - Lopsided ear function can lead to lopsided brain development
March 21, 2018 - Acupuncture helps manage menopausal symptoms, review finds
March 21, 2018 - Motor skill training may contribute to reading skills in obese children
March 21, 2018 - Poor dental health may be related to increased diabetes risk
March 21, 2018 - Chronic opioid users at increased risk of complications after spinal fusion surgery
March 21, 2018 - Study uncovers potential therapeutic target against large family of parasites
March 21, 2018 - NSAID use linked to increased risk of atrial fibrillation
March 21, 2018 - Scientists develop brain “stethoscope” that can detect silent seizures
March 21, 2018 - New method predicts effects of global warming on disease
March 21, 2018 - Insurance Company Hurdles Burden Doctors, May Harm Patients
March 21, 2018 - Renal Transplant from HCV-Positive Donors Feasible
March 21, 2018 - Myelodysplastic syndrome: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
March 21, 2018 - Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning
March 21, 2018 - Many parents still hesitate to try early peanut introduction, survey finds
March 21, 2018 - Audiologist urges tinnitus sufferers facing ‘revolving door healthcare’ to seek support
March 21, 2018 - Study reveals impact of prostate cancer on wives and partners of sufferers
March 21, 2018 - ‘Almost a Miracle Drug’: What We Heard This Week
March 21, 2018 - Study shows NIH spent >$100 billion on basic science for new medicines
March 21, 2018 - Columbia researchers identify nerve cells that drive fruit fly’s escape behavior
March 21, 2018 - Sartorius Stedim Biotech selected by ABL Europe to supply single-use process technologies
March 21, 2018 - Increase in coffee consumption may help battle against colon cancer
March 21, 2018 - Hydrogel may accelerate healing of diabetic ulcers
March 21, 2018 - Dermira’s Two Phase 3 Trials Evaluating Olumacostat Glasaretil in Patients with Acne Vulgaris Did Not Meet Co-Primary Endpoints
March 21, 2018 - DePuy Synthes introduces ACTIS Total Hip System for improving initial implant stability
March 21, 2018 - ‘Oh, It Was Nothing’
March 21, 2018 - Herbal drug kratom linked to salmonella illnesses, CDC says
March 21, 2018 - New optical point-of-care device could enhance screening for thyroid nodules
March 21, 2018 - FDA Expands Approval of Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin) for First-Line Treatment of Stage III or IV Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma in Combination with Chemotherapy
March 21, 2018 - Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Late Manifestation of Allergic March
March 21, 2018 - Signaling pathway involving the Golgi apparatus identified in cells with Huntington’s disease
March 21, 2018 - Quintupling inhaled steroid doses may not benefit children with asthma
March 21, 2018 - Study shows clear connection between cardiovascular fitness in middle age and dementia risk
March 21, 2018 - Premature babies have higher risks of health complications in Bangladesh
March 21, 2018 - Child’s temperament and parenting influence weight gain in babies
March 21, 2018 - Researchers find the heart to be capable of arrhythmia termination after local gene therapy
March 21, 2018 - Inhealthcare to provide digital infrastructure for NHS to help protect people from falls
March 21, 2018 - Flu Season Finally Slowing Down
March 21, 2018 - Mixed Results for Shorter DAPT in ACS Patients
March 21, 2018 - Scientists discover fish scale-derived collagen effective for healing wounds
March 21, 2018 - Genomics England announces new partnership to improve efficiency of next-generation sequencing analysis
March 21, 2018 - Adjuvant AC chemotherapy found to be effective in treating HRD-positive breast cancer patients
March 21, 2018 - Researchers identify new treatment targets for lung diseases using big data
March 21, 2018 - Kids see more women in science than five decades ago
March 21, 2018 - Research shows link between chronic fatigue syndrome and lower thyroid hormone levels
March 21, 2018 - Alzheimer’s disease on the rise
March 21, 2018 - Two Agents Equal as Pretreatment for Adrenal Tumor Surgery
March 21, 2018 - ‘Icebreaker’ protein opens genome for T cell development, researchers find
March 21, 2018 - Women in medicine shout #Metoo about sexual harassment at work
March 21, 2018 - Mother’s pre-pregnancy waist size may be linked to child’s autism risk
March 21, 2018 - Second hand marijuana smoke can cause serious damage
March 21, 2018 - International study shows benefits of using MRI at the start of prostate cancer diagnosis
March 20, 2018 - Santhera Reports Outcome of Exploratory Trial with Idebenone in PPMS Conducted at the NIH
March 20, 2018 - ECG Patch Ups At-Home Afib Diagnosis in mSToPS Trial
March 20, 2018 - ROS-scavenging nanozymes for anti-inflammation therapeutics
March 20, 2018 - Genomics England announces appointment of global genomics pioneer as first CEO
March 20, 2018 - Test flight at German Aerospace Center in Cologne demonstrates functionality of deficopter
March 20, 2018 - Music therapy helps treat combat-related psychological injuries in military personnel
March 20, 2018 - Innovative psychotherapeutic treatment protocol for obsessive-compulsive disorders
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 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