Prisoners in Massachusetts who have hepatitis C could soon be treated more frequently and with more effective, and more expensive, drugs as part of what is believed to be a groundbreaking class-action settlement agreement reached with the Massachusetts Department of Correction.
If the agreement, filed in federal court in Boston on Friday, receives preliminary approval from the court, prisoners with the most serious cases of the disease will begin to be treated under the new guidelines within the next 12 months.
Inmates with less advanced stages of hepatitis C would get treated within 18 months. New prisoners will be given the option to be tested for the disease.
The settlement would also get rid of an exclusion that allowed the Department of Correction to deny prisoners treatment if they had less time remaining on their sentence than was needed for treatment, typically 8 to 12 weeks, said Joel Thompson, an attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts who represented the prisoners.
“The main thing here is it sets clear time frames for treating sick people,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a real benefit to our clients.”