Lawsuits Regarding Hep C Treatment

In jails and prisons around the U.S., incarcerated people are being denied access to powerful new drugs (released over the past 18 months) for hepatitis C, a dangerous liver disease which is growing among poor people and especially rampant in prisons. The drugs have been showing remarkable cure rates — 90-95% — but the pharmaceutical manufacturers are charging upwards of $60,000-$85,000 for the 12-week course of treatment necessary to obtain these results. Prison authorities claim the cost is the reason for their refusal to follow the standard of care, but this withholding is just the latest in a long history of medical neglect and maltreatment of incacarcerated people nationwide.

In the case of political prisoners, a second, more insidious dynamic comes into play: The state and federal authorities’ efforts to exploit the medical problems of these aging men and women to exacerbate their denial of care and medical mistreatment in order to purposely accelerate their deaths.

This can be seen most acutely in the mysterious, sudden deaths of previously healthy MOVE political prisoners Merle Africa, age 40 (1998) and Phil Africa, age 59 (Jan. 2015) — and now the persistent pattern of denial of medical information and inappropriate medical care of Mumia Abu-Jamal, age 61. In early August, Mumia’s attorneys filed a lawsuit challenging the Pennsylvania prison authorities’ denial of medical care, including treatment for hepatitis C, and life-threatening mismanagement of his diabetes and extremely painful skin condition. This comes weeks after other incarcerated men in Pa. filed a class action suit against the Department of Corrections‘ refusal to prescribe the hep C drugs to those who need them.

We have been circulating the class action suit of other PA prisoners (lawsuit here) who are pressing for treatment by the expensive drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni. In addition to this, the Southeastern PA Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has also filed a class action suit in Federal court in Philadelphia against Gilead Sciences (lawsuit here). Gilead is the private pharmaceutical company that exorbitantly prices its Hep-C drug, Sovaldi, out of reach for most Americans – not to mention for those who are incarcerated.