Broader screening for hepatitis C would be cost effective, study suggests

March 14, 2012

Broader screening to identify people infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) would likely be cost effective, according to a new report published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and available online. Significantly reducing HCV-related mortality and morbidity, however, will require a coordinated effort that emphasizes not only increased testing but also linking those infected with the treatment they need.

The HCV epidemic peaked many years ago, but roughly 4 million U.S. residents still suffer the consequences of . A growing proportion of those infected now has advanced disease, including cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Deaths from chronic infection have doubled over the last decade and are expected to more than double again by 2030.

The current "risk factor-based approach to screening has failed to identify at least half of those infected, leading to a situation in which a quarter of those newly diagnosed already suffer from cirrhosis of the liver," said Dr. Phillip O. Coffin, who led a team of researchers, including Drs. John D. Scott, Matthew R. Golden, and Sean D. Sullivan, at the University of Washington in Seattle who estimated the cost-effectiveness and impact of HCV screening.

Adding a one-time screening for all adults between the ages of 20 and 69 and factoring in the costs of managing late-stage versus the costs of attempting to cure patients of hepatitis C, Dr. Coffin's team used statistical modeling techniques to analyze the benefit of broadening screening guidelines. They found that screening all adults was cost effective across a wide range of assumptions related to the costs and effects of screening and treatment. At the same time, the proportion of deaths averted by screening is likely to be relatively small, unless testing efforts are accompanied by substantial increases in successful referral of infected persons for treatment.

"The stealth epidemic of hepatitis C has finally matured, leaving a narrow window of opportunity to find those with advancing disease, connect them with care, and prevent the tragic and costly consequences of and end-stage liver disease," Dr. Coffin said. Doctors are hampered by current overly narrow , and managing chronic HCV infection becomes increasingly expensive as it progresses.

"We need to screen the population, but that won't be enough to make a big difference," Dr. Coffin said. "Hepatitis C is a lot like HIV. The U.S. took a long time to come to the conclusion that we needed to really emphasize testing and efforts to link people to care. is the same. We need a large scale, coordinated effort to identify people with this infection and make sure they get the care they need."

Explore further: Analysis finds mortality from all causes higher among hepatitis C-infected

Related Stories

Pinpointing a tell-tale mark of liver cancer

July 8, 2011

Persistent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can lead to chronic hepatitis C and then progress to fatal liver diseases including liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths. Worldwide, ...

The economic cost of advanced liver disease

November 7, 2011

Health care costs for hepatitis C patients with end-stage liver disease are nearly 2.5 times higher than those in the early stages, according to a Henry Ford Hospital study.

Recommended for you

Ebola virus mutations may help it evade drug treatment

September 11, 2015

Genetic mutations called "escape variants" in the deadly Ebola virus appear to block the ability of antibody-based treatments to ward off infection, according to a team of U.S. Army scientists and collaborators. Their findings, ...

Study finds viral protein that causes dengue shock

September 9, 2015

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified a key culprit responsible for the fluid loss and resulting shock that are the hallmark of severe - and potentially fatal - dengue virus infections.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.