There is a simple, outright cure for hepatitis C. But state prisons across the country are failing to save hundreds of people who die each year from the virus and related complications.
A STAT investigation has found that more than 1,000 incarcerated people died from hepatitis C-related complications in the six years after a curative drug hit the market. The death rate in 2019 was double that of the broader U.S. population.
In the stories on this page, reporter Nicholas Florko documents prisons’ blatant refusal to test and treat people with the condition, even, in some cases, in the face of legal orders to do so. He introduces incarcerated people who watched their health deteriorate or lost their lives because of the rationing of hepatitis C drugs. Prisons say the medicine, even as its price drops, is too expensive for them to distribute widely. But incarcerated people are fighting back: Some have fought for the treatment in the courts and won, forcing the system to care for them and, in some cases, other incarcerated hepatitis C patients.
About the project
Reporting and data analysis: Nicholas Florko
Research: Kate Sheridan
Editing: Erin Mershon
Art and photo direction: Alissa Ambrose
Illustration: Natsumi Chikayasu
Video reporting: Alex Hogan
Additional editing: Gideon Gil, Rick Berke
Copyediting: Sarah Mupo and Karen Pennar
Page design: Jennifer Keefe, Julia Bujalski
About the reporting
STAT’s investigation is based on interviews with nearly 100 people around the country, including incarcerated patients and grieving families, prison officials, and legal and medical experts. Reporter Nicholas Florko also filed more than 225 public records requests and combed through thousands of pages of legal filings to tell these stories. His analysis of deaths in custody is based on a special data use agreement between STAT and the Department of Justice.
You can read more about the reporting for this project and the methodology behind our calculations.
The series is the culmination of a reporting fellowship sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists and supported by The Commonwealth Fund.