Three Louisiana prisoners are suing the state, claiming inmates have been denied life-saving drugs be- cause of cost, The Advocate reports.
They contend the Hepatitis C medication is 95 per- cent effective in curing the virus, but multiple prisoners died before inmates were treated with the drug in 2016.
The drug originally cost upwards of $100,000 when approved in 2014, The Advocate reported Feb. 9. The price has since dipped to about $10,000.
“We’ve never refused medical treatment or care because of cost,” said prisons secretary Jimmy LeBlanc.
According to prison medical staff, the corrections department instituted a policy to determine which patients would get the new treatment and then administered the drugs to those most seriously ill.
The prisoners are held at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, La. They are Tony Cormier, Levell Doughty and Richard Henderson.
The suit said their 8th and 14th Amendments were violated by the corrections department for neglecting their care by failing to prescribe them the new drugs called Direct Acting Antiviral.
Joseph Long, the attorney representing the prisoners, filed a motion to request the autopsies and death reports of those who died.
“This evidence is critical to prove…the state and its actors, defendants in this case, allowed prisoners similarly situated as plaintiff to die rather than pay for the treatment that would have saved their lives,” said Long.
Hepatitis C patients in prison and on Medicaid in society, both rely on the state for their health care.
The state’s health department said of the 35,000 people in Louisiana’s Medicaid program living with hepatitis C in 2018, only 384 were treated last year. Of the additional 4,000 prisoners also living with the virus, only a small number received the medication as well, the department noted.
The three men have started treatment or are scheduled to, according to Long. He said that change came only after they filed their lawsuit.