Hepatitis C

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine plans to launch a $1.5 expansion of syringe exchanges to combat the surge in hepatitis C cases in the state.

Maine Public File

A Maine State Prison inmate has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and Wellpath LLC, a private contractor that provides medical care to prisoners.

About 3.5 million people in the U.S. are living with hepatitis C. New, blockbuster drugs have transformed the treatment and prognosis for the deadly disease. But there’s a catch — they’re expensive.

A single course of treatment, which lasts about three months, can cost as much as $90,000. The sheer volume of patients combined with the price tag for treatment limits access.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Treatment for hepatitis C was at one time complicated, requiring weekly visits to specialists and harsh drugs that often came with severe side effects. And the cure rate was less than 50 percent.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We know that hepatitis C is an increasing problem, and that it’s closely tied to intravenous drug use. But what is it, exactly? How does it work in your body? Let’s find out.

Hepatitis C kills more Americans than HIV and AIDS, and the number of people who are infected with the disease is growing. Dramatically.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The White House has declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency. But it’s also fueling another epidemic: a rise in hepatitis C.

There's an outbreak of hepatitis C in the state, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control.

Both acute and chronic cases of the liver infection have surged to an all-time high due in large part to the increase in heroin use.

Health advocates say reducing hepatitis C will take more treatment and prevention programs, as well as more empathy for those affected by the disease.

Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the U.S., but it can take years for symptoms — such as nausea, fatigue, and dark colored urine — to surface.

Patty Wight

More than 3 million people in the U.S. have Hepatitis C, a difficult-to-treat infection that can cause serious liver disease and death.  When a drug called Sovaldi was released late last year to treat Hepatitis C, it soon made headlines for its 90 percent success rate - and for its cost: $1,000 a pill.  The price tag has some states putting treatment on hold, and insurance companies are reeling.  Patty Wight reports on the impact of Sovaldi in Maine, as well as the questions it raises about the cost and benefits of certain drug regimens.