A judge has ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to begin treating all inmates with hepatitis C – something the state has allegedly not done because of the cost of the drug used to treat the disease.
U.S. District Court judge Mark Walker on a Thursday night order condemned Florida's "long and sordid story of neglecting" hepatitis C inmates, a viral infection that, if not treated, can cause liver damage, liver cancer, bleeding and even death.
Walker wrote that the truth that was uncovered in previous hearings was "crystal:" The Florida Correction Department "shattered its duty to properly treat" inmates with the infection because the substances used to do so called "direct action" antiviral drugs "" Too expensive. The Florida Department of Corrections in a statement to HuffPost Friday said it was "obliged to secure all prisoners in our detention, given medically necessary treatment consistent with national standards and our constitutional responsibility. "
" We receive the judge's order and will thoroughly review, "said the department.
Thursday's order is the result of a complaint by the Florida Justice Institute filed on behalf of three inmates in May 201
Two additional prisoners filed lawsuits in December , arguing that the state had violated their rights under the Americans with the Disability Law and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in failing to treat them for hepatitis C.
"We will get dozens of these filed in June," Ryan Andrews, lawyer told one of the trials, Tallahassee Democrat. "These people need help and die from illnesses that are actually healing now."  Hepatitis C is typically spread from contact with blood or blood products infected with the virus. It usually occurs by intravenous use of drugs, but the disease can also transmit through tattooing, blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Questions about prisons that do not treat inmates with hepatitis C extend beyond Florida. According to a report by Kaiser Health News this year, prisons in the United States did not find that at least 144,000 inmates were treated with the disease.
Most states mentioned high drug prices as the cause of their neglect. A single course of treatment for hepatitis C may cost $ 90,000.
Proposes estimates that there could be as many as 20,000 inmates in Florida currently having the disease. State Sen. Jeff Brandes, relying on the Florida Senate's criminal budget committee, told Miami Herald that Thursday's order could affect the state budget by nearly $ 20 million.
Walker's order also requires the Florida Department of Corrections to begin submitting monthly status reports to the court in June, describing the number of inmates screened for hepatitis C, how many have the disease and how far it has developed, and where many patients receiving treatment.
Carl Hoffer, one of the inmates who is represented in the Florida Justice Institute's trial, died waiting for a liver transplant that the case was under treatment, according to lawyer Erica Selig.
"This order will prevent further suffering and death, like Mr. Hoffer, in Florida's prison system," said Selig in a release.