Three incarcerated individuals claim the NC Department of Public Safety (DPS) and several officials in charge of the state’s prison system refused to provide proper treatment to inmates diagnosed with hepatitis C (HCV).
Three incarcerated individuals have filed suit against the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) and several officials in charge of the state’s prison system over the parties' alleged refusal to provide proper treatment to inmates diagnosed with hepatitis C (HCV). The lawsuit takes issue with the defendants’ supposedly flawed method of approving individuals for direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) that, according to the complaint, “cure the vast majority of patients infected with HCV.”
The case explains HCV is a viral infection that causes liver scarring and can eventually result in cancer, portal hypertension, and death. The North Carolina DPS allegedly only approves treatment for patients who have already experienced liver scarring as long as the individuals have more than 12 months left in their sentences, a life expectancy of more than 10 years, and have not committed any drug- or alcohol-related infractions within the previous 12 months. These prerequisites, the case argues, are not medically justified and have only been put in place to allow the defendants to sidestep the cost of expensive DAA treatment.
“[The defendant] prison officials have refused to treat [the plaintiffs],” the lawsuit reads. “Unless a patient also has hepatitis B or HIV, DPS only permits DAA treatment when a patient has already suffered significant liver scarring and the risks of further significant injury are higher.”
The lawsuit further points out that while patients who are treated earlier for HCV “have a greater likelihood of being cured,” the defendants’ processes for detecting and treating the disease do not focus on preventative measures. The DPS supposedly employs an inadequate screening process that fails to test for HCV and, once individuals are diagnosed, does not provide sufficient additional testing to monitor the progression of the virus. Under the DPS’s system, the complaint argues, “[t]he only way for patients to qualify for HCV treatment is to wait while their disease advances, and hope that DPS decides to order a timely FibroSure test that provides an accurate result.”
The case estimates that “thousands” of individuals in North Carolina DPS custody have undiagnosed HCV.