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Federal Judge finds 8th Amendment Violation in Pennsylvania’s Refusal to Treat Mumia’s Hep-C

A win and a loss, at least for the time being

Grote said that the judge did say who the parties are that would have to be included in an amended filing of the suit, and that if those names are added, he could rule on the request for an injunction requiring treatment. “We had the health care director for the DIC and the former head too," says Grote. "Our position was that they were and are responsible for implementing any treatment guidelines. But the Judge said that we should have included the members of the prison system’s Hepatitis C Treatment Committee.” He adds, “We will be getting the new papers filed as expeditiously as possible.” Grote says one motion was already filed weeks ago adding one member of the treatment committee, Dr. Paul Noel, the DOC’s chief of clinical services. A decision on that amendment to the injunction filing is pending.

Grote expressed optimism that once the treatment committee members’ names are added as defendants in the case, the judge will rule favorably on Abu-Jamal’s injunction petition.

The concern is time. The wheels of justice in the federal court system can grind painfully slowly, and if the state is able to win a new hearing on the issue, it could be months before any decision by the court. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys are resisting any new hearing, since the facts of the case were already established at a hearing last winter, when DOC witnesses admitted in court that their existing “protocol for treatment” was so strict that in reality no state inmates had been approved to receive newly invented Hep-C drugs that have demonstrated a 90-95% cure rate.

The state, like jurisdictions all over the country -- and also like most state Medicare agencies -- has been trying mightily to avoid providing the new drugs like Harvoni and Sovaldi, because of the costs. These drugs can run to $80,000 or more per patient for a 12-week course of treatment. Instead Pennsylvania has been, at best, providing older medicines that have terrible side effects and that are only effective less than half the time.

But after learning of the DOC's protocol, which states that in order to get the new medications, inmates must first show signs of advanced fibrosis scarring of the liver or of even worse evidence of cirrhosis of the liver, or what are called esophageal varises -- basically enlarged veins in the wall of the esophagus which can burst and cause death from sudden internal bleeding and which are caused by hepatitis liver infections -- Judge Mariani was unequivocal. Noting first that the October 2015 guidelines issued by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, entitled “When and in Whom to Initiate HCV Therapy," recommend treatment using the new anti-viral drugs “for all patients with chronic Hepatitis C virus infection, except those with short life expectancies that cannot be remediated by treating HCV, by transplantation, or by other directed therapy," and that the national Centers for Disease Control “states that the standard of care in hepatitis C treatment in the United States is treatment with direct-acting antiviral agents such as Harvoni and Viekira Pak,” Judge Mariani writes:
 



story | by Dr. Radut