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Prisoners With Hepatitis C Want More Access To Medicine That Can Cure The Disease

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Prisoners with Hepatitis C want the North Carolina prison system to change how it makes treatment decisions. Attorneys will argue in a federal courtroom in Durham Monday the department should be ordered to alter its policy to meet medical standards and treat all who have the illness. 

DPS has identified 1,543 inmates with Hepatitis C. However, estimates are the number could be between four and eight times that amount because not everyone is regularly tested.

The infectious disease can be spread by sharing needles or through sex. Anti-viral pills that a patient takes for two or three months can cure the disease in 90 percent of patients. But the treatments are expensive costing tens of thousands of dollars. Prisoners in multiple other states have filed similar lawsuits. The ACLU is asking the court to follow the example of a judge in Florida. Last year, the Florida corrections department was ordered to update its screening and treatment policy.

The Department of Public Safety doesn’t screen every prisoner for Hepatitis C but denies its practices are medically inadequate. DPS policy says if an inmate is in prison less than a year or has a life expectancy less than 10 years, they should not be treated. DPS reports as of April 589 inmates had completed the treatment and another 72 were getting treated or had been approved for the medicines.