Study results are currently showing that incarcerated individuals with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can be successfully treated with pegylated interferon and ribavirin, and have achieved comparable rates of treatment completion and sustained viral response to those outside the correctional setting. HCV infection within incarcerated populations has reached as high as 31 percent, compared with 1.6 percent of the general population, leading researchers to suggest that anti-viral treatment while incarcerated is optimal.
No study had compared treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin between contemporaneous incarcerated and community patients treated at the same clinic until Michael Lucey (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA) and colleagues evaluated 388 incarcerated and 521 nonincarcerated HCV-infected patients for treatment at the University of Wisconsin clinics between January of 2002 and December of 2007. Overall, 386 (69.8 percent) patients completed a full treatment course, and a similar proportion of incarcerated and nonincarcerated completed a full treatment course (75 percent and 68.6 percent, respectively). Additionally, a sustained viral response (SVR) was achieved in a similar number of both incarcerated (42.9 percent) and nonincarcerated (38 percent) patients.
The study shows that prison offers potential access to appropriate HCV care for a population with numerous socioeconomic, psychiatric, and substance abuse factors.