For the past two years, Mumia Abu-Jamal has suffered a severe case of Hepatitis C. On January 3rd, federal court judge Robert Mariani ruled that not treating prisoners infected with hepatitis C is barbaric and unconstitutional – a violation of the 8th Amendment. He ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to treat Abu-Jamal with the hep C cure within 21 days.
Protocols established by the PA DOC were setup to deny and delay even consideration for treatment for hepatitis C until a prisoner is near death and no longer treatable. The ruling for Mumia would extend to the 7,000 other PA prisoners with the disease.
“This is the first case in the country in which a federal court has ordered prison officials to provide an incarcerated patient with the new [hepatitis C] medications that came on the market in 2013,” Attorney Robert Boyle said in an Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) media release on January 3.
It is anticipated the DOC will appeal Mariani’s ruling. They have 30 days to do so. We must not let this happen – and delay is deadly.
If the DOC does appeal, it’s expected they will focus on the high price of sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) or sofosbuvir-velpatasvir (Harvoni), the new drugs that cure hepatitis C. The DOC claims treating up to 7,000 prisoners would cost the prison system $600 million.
However, a study presented at The Liver Meeting, November 11-15, 2016, in Boston, MA, put the actual cost of producing sofosbuvir at only $62 which includes a 50% profit. The current market price in the U.S. is 1,355 times higher.
Article on medicine prices
At the actual and justifiable price, it would only cost Pennsylvania $434,000 to treat every infected prisoner, not the $600 million they are claiming.
The cure for hepatitis C is 95% reliable with little or no side effects. Left untreated hep C can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and death. One of Governor Tom Wolf’s first acts in office was to place a moratorium on the death sentence in Pennsylvania. To let prisoners die due to medical neglect and the failure to treat a curable disease is not just unconstitutional, it’s a death sentence by other means.