The Dark Cloud Inside the Silver Lining -What’s Really Going on with Hepatitis C Infection

Despite the flood of articles touting the success and costs of the new hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments, direct-acting antivirals (DAA), currently hepatitis C remains more dangerous than HIV and it is likely to continue to exert a huge mortality and morbidity for at least three more decades in the United States.

One study and an associated editorial look into this subject further:

  • J Chhatwal et al. Hepatitis C Disease Burden in the United States in the Era of Oral Direct-Acting Antivirals.  Hepatology 2016; 64: 1442-1450.
  • JM Pawlotsky. The End of the Hepatitis C Burden: Really?

In the study, the authors used a validated HCV burden simulation model (HEP-SIM) and noted the following:

“Even in the oral DAA era, 320,000 patients will die, 157,000 will develop hepatocellular carcinoma, and 203,000 will develop decompensated cirrhosis in the next 35 years.”

Part of the problems will be a large number of individuals who remain unaware of their diagnosis (560,000 by year 2020) but other barriers include medication costs.

From the editorial -some pushback on the cost-savings argument:

  • “Although current drug regimens were reported to be cost-effective, nothing justifies the current prices, except financial considerations on the drug makers’ side. On the one hand, one could consider that the money saved on liver disease-related expenses is not truly saved. Being cured from HCV and not dying from its complications will not prevent the same individual from dying from another cause at a very high cost.”

My take: To bend the HCV curve faster, there will need to be increased HCV screening, increased treatment capacity, and reasonable costs.

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