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U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey has granted class-action status to a federal civil suit accusing the Missouri Department of Corrections of denying inmates medication to treat Hepatitis C, a disease that progressively destroys the liver.

The federal lawsuit was filed in December by the American Civil Liberties Union and the St. Louis-based Roderick and Solange Macarthur Justice Center on behalf of three inmates who claim they have been "consistently"refused adequate treatment for years." On Wednesday, Laughrey granted the plaintiff's motion for the suit to be designated a class-action.

A spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections declined comment.

The suit's claims against Missouri DOC include failing to provide antiviral drugs to inmates with chronic hepatitus C and basing treatment decision on cost rather than medical needs. The ACLU says the suit asks the court to DOC's policy a violation of constutitutional rights and the American Disabilities Act and to force the state's prison system to enact new treatment policies.

The ACLU estimated that up to 15 percent of Missouri's prison inmates are infected with Hepatitis C, or at minimum 2,000 inmates with the disease who aren't being treated.