All federal inmates with HCV eligible for treatment

Paul Webster | Toronto | July 27, 2017 – There will be a vast increase in spending on treatment for the estimated 2700 federal inmates infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has a treatment budget for 2017-18 of $16.5 million, nearly four times the amount budgeted in 2010, according to Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada.

“This is a story of good leadership at the federal level,” said Zinger.

In 2015, Zinger called on CSC to expand HCV treatment as an investment in public health. He credited CMAJ for “important work that kept the pressure on,” referring to a series of news articles, starting in 2012, on HCV treatment rates in prisons.

The number of inmates started on HCV treatment doubled, to 606, between 2015 and 2016, said Zinger. Another 121 began treatment in April and May of this year. “At this rate, CSC could start over 1000 offenders on curative HCV therapies” in 2017, he said.

CSC’s new approach to HCV treatment can be credited to the introduction of new direct-acting antivirals, bulk purchasing agreements with drug makers, and updated treatment guidelines by the Canadian Association of the Study of the Liver, according to Jennifer Wheatley, assistant commissioner of health services for CSC.

“All inmates diagnosed with hepatitis C are now eligible for treatment,” she said.

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