Jul 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kentucky prisons can ration hepatitis C treatment, appeals court rules

Federal Prison Medical Center in Lexington Kentucky USA.

Federal Prison Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Kentucky Department of Corrections can deny a life-saving but costly hepatitis C medication to inmates, a federal appeals court recently ruled, according to the AP.

Why it matters: Hepatitis C is the leading cause of serious liver disease and Kentucky has the highest infection rate in the United States, per AP.

  • New treatments can cure 100% of patients but cost $13,000 to $32,000.
  • Due to the cost of the treatment, the Kentucky Department of Corrections has restricted use of the treatment to inmates with advanced liver scarring.

Driving the news: In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that denying treatment to most of Kentucky's 1,200 inmates with hepatitis C does not violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

  • The dissenting judge said the majority opinion "consigns thousands of prisoners with symptomatic, chronic HCV to years of additional suffering and irreversible liver scarring," the Louisville Courier Journal reports.
  • The majority decision upholds an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, who "found the department’s monitoring of inmates with hepatitis C constituted treatment, and the department’s treatment plan was adequate," according to AP.
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