The Best Time To Treat Children with Hepatitis C And Cost Considerations

E Greenaway et al. J Pediatr 2021; 230: 38-45. Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C in Young Children Reduces Adverse Outcomes and Is Cost-Effective Compared with Deferring Treatment to Adulthood

Related editorial: N Rodriguez-Baez. J Pediatr 2021; 230: 9-10. Full text: Hepatitis C in Young Children: To Treat or Not to Treat – Is It Cost-Effective?

In this study, the authors used a state-transition model to assess cost-effectiveness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in children; the model treated a hypothetical cohort of 10,000 children with chronic HCV at age 6 years with combination therapy of sofosbuvir/ledipasvir for 12 weeks vs deferring treatment until 18 years of age.

Key findings:

  • The incremental cost effectiveness of early treatment of young children was $12 690 per QALY gained after 20 years, which is considered cost effective compared with deferred treatment.
  • The authors note that if the cost of DAA medications dropped by 60%, then early treatment would not be more cost effective.
  • However, early treatment of 10,000 children would prevent 330 cases of cirrhosis, 18 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma, and 48 liver-related deaths.
  • The investigators presented an additional scenario treating children as young as 3 years of age and using alternative treatment with the pan-genotypic combination of glecaprevir/pibrentasvir for 8 weeks; using glecaprevir/pibrentasvir resulted in an incremental cost effectiveness of $12 563 per QALY compared with deferring treatment to age 18 years.

All cost effective models have built in assumptions. This model, for example, presumes each patient is offered treatment only once and does not get reinfected before age 18 years.

Other aspects about early treatment that are difficult to quantitate:

  • Improved adherence at younger age which improves cost effectiveness
  • Reduction in transmission of HCV as a consequence of successful treatment
  • Detrimental effects of untreated/deferred treatment HCV on quality of life, psychosocial health, and cognitive functioning

My take: This study (& editorial) demonstrate that early treatment of HCV is a good value and delivers non-economic benefits as well. Every child (>3 years) with HCV should be treated and cured of HCV infection.

Related blog posts:

From Journal of Pediatrics twitter feed

“Crushing it:” Practice Guidance for Hepatitis C

Today’s post on Hepatitis C follows a few screenshots from twitter regarding the coronavirus epidemic.

Pediatric report of coronavirus in children: NEJM Full link: SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Children A recent review of 72,314 cases by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that less than 1% of the cases were in children younger than 10 years of age (n=171)…3 patients required intensive care support and invasive mechanical ventilation; all had coexisting conditions. There was one death in a 10-month-old child with intussusception had multiorgan failure and died 4 weeks after admission.


As noted yesterday, this post will review a recent practice guidance for hepatitis C

Some specific recommendations for children:


  • “All children born to HCV-infected women should be tested for HCV infection. Testing is recommended using an antibody-based test at or after 18 months of age.”
  • “Testing with an HCV-RNA assay can be considered in the first year of life, but the optimal timing of such testing is unknown” (but can be done as early as 2 months of life).
  • “The siblings of children with vertically-acquired chronic HCV should be tested for HCV infection, if born from the same mother.”

Counseling for parents:

  • “Parents should be informed that hepatitis C is not transmitted by casual contact and, as such, children with HCV infection do not pose a risk to other children and can participate in school, sports, and athletic activities, and engage in all other regular childhood activities without restrictions.”
  • “Parents should be informed that universal precautions should be followed at school and in the home of children with HCV infection. Educate families and children about the risk and routes of HCV transmission, and the techniques for avoiding blood exposure, such as avoiding the sharing of toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers, and the use of gloves and dilute bleach to clean up blood.”


  • “Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment with an approved regimen is recommended for all children and adolescents with HCV infection aged ≥3 years as they will benefit from antiviral therapy, regardless of disease severity.”
  • Early treatment in childhood is expected to be cost-effective compared to treatment at later ages based on previous studies

This chart provides recommendations for pediatric patients who have not received prior direct-acting antivirals. More information at

“Crushing it:” Two More Pediatric Hepatitis C Trials

Before today’s planned blog post, I wanted to mention a good NY Times article which highlights how long the virus which causes COVID-19 can be present on surfaces:

Full link from NY Times: How Long Will Coronavirus Live on Surfaces or in the Air Around You?

An excerpt:

The virus lives longest on plastic and steel, surviving for up to 72 hours. But the amount of viable virus decreases sharply over this time. It also does poorly on copper and cardboard, surviving four to eight hours; the latter finding suggests packages that arrive in the mail should be safe — unless the delivery person has coughed or sneezed on it or has handled it with contaminated hands.

That the virus can survive and stay infectious in aerosols is also important for health care workers.

For weeks experts have maintained that the virus is not airborne. But in fact, it can travel through the air and stay suspended for that period of about a half-hour.

The virus does not linger in the air at high enough levels to be a risk to most people who are not physically near an infected person. But the procedures health care workers use to care for infected patients are likely to generate aerosols.

The original article from NEJM:  Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1


This “C” virus was hard to cure until recently.  More good news from recently published studies for pediatric hepatitis c virus (HCV) treatment:

  • KB Schwarz et al. Hepatology 2020; 71: 422-30. 
  • MM Jonas et al. Hepatology 2020; 71: 456-62.
  • AASLD-IDSA Practice Guidance Panel. Hepatology 2020; 71: 686-721

In the first study of an all oral regimen of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir, sustained virological response at 12 weeks after dosing (SVR12) was achieved in 33 of 34 (97%) of children 3-<6 yrs of age with genotypes 1 or 4 (only 1 with type 4). No serious adverse effects were reported. Dosing: 33.75 mg/150 mg if <17 kg or 45 mg/200 mg if ≥17 kg. The one non-responder discontinued treatment due to drug taste.  Pharmokinetic studies in 13 patients confirmed appropriate medication dosing.

In the second study of glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (G/P), as part of the DORA phase 2/3 nonrandomized, open-label trial, adolescents 12-17 received the ‘adult’ regimen of 300 mg/120 mg daily for 8-12 weeks in accordance with indication duration based on adult data.  Among the 47 patients (genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4), 100% achieved SVR12. Safety profile was consistent with prior studies in adults.

The third publication, which is quite lengthy, highlights updated recommendations for HCV in adults and children (this will be reviewed in tomorrow’s post).

Related blog posts:

Head-to-Head: Nutritional Therapy versus Biological Therapy in Pediatric Crohn’s Disease

The best data to date: D Lee et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2015; 21: 1786-93. In this prospective study, the authors studied treatment initiation in children (N=90), comparing partial enteral nutrition (PEN, n=16), exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN, n=22), and anti-TNF therapy (n=52).


  • Clinical response, defined by PCDAI reduction ≤15 or final PCDAI ≤10, was achieved by 64% PEN, 88% EEN, and 84% anti-TNF.
  • Fecal calprotectin ≤250 noted in 14% PEN, 45% EEN, and 62% anti-TNF

Because of the discrepancy between EEN and PEN, the authors speculate that the “efficacy of EEN may be a consequence of elimination of table food rather than providing a uniquely therapeutic method of delivering nutrients.”  They note that “choice of formula has not impacted the efficacy of enteral nutrition.”

More extensive information on this subject: D Lee et al. Gastroenterol 2015; 148: 1087-1106.

Bottomline: Anti-TNF therapy was as effective or more effective than EEN. And, “for patients who prefer treatment with a nutrition-based therapy, EEN seems superior to PEN.”

Related blog posts:

Street Art, NYC

Street Art, NYC

When Will MRI Obviate the Need for a Liver Biopsy in Pediatric NAFLD?

A recent study (JB Schwimmer et al. Hepatology 2015; 1887-95, editorial Vos MB, pages 1779-80) examines the accuracy of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compared with liver histology in children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

This prospective validation study enrolled 174 children with a mean age of 14 years.  The MRI estimated the liver proton density fat fraction (PDFF).

Key findings:

  • Liver MRI-PDFF correlated with steatosis grade; the correlation was particularly strong at high and low end values.  Thus, a very low MRI-PDFF was highly likely to predict a steatosis grade 0 or 1 while a very high value corresponded to high steatosis levels.
  • Liver MRI-PDFF was weaker in children with stage 2-4 fibrosis than in children with no fibrosis

The editorial notes that this study “is one of hundreds now published in the literature on MRI and NAFLD…The superiority of MR-based methods…over ultrasound is clear.  The question is why are we still ordering abdominal ultrasounds to diagnose NAFLD in children?”  The barriers for usage of MRI include cost, potential sedation, and nonuniform methods for MRI usage.

The paper conclude that “MRI is not yet sufficient to replace liver biopsy in children.”  The editorial also indicates that the MRI era is fast approaching but not viable today.

Take-home point: Due to the huge numbers of patients with pediatric NAFLD, MRI remains a terrific area for research but remains problematic in clinical practice.  Given the expense of MRI, until its use can reduce liver biopsies or improve management, its role is likely to remain limited.

Turner Field

Turner Field


The Medical Pendulum and Gastroesophageal Reflux

In so many areas of pediatric gastroenterology, there is a gradual development of enthusiasm for a medical treatment.  In the vast majority, the enthusiasm goes too far and closer scrutiny often determines a more limited role for this medical treatment or potential adverse effects that were not initially appreciated.  The latest example of this may well be with the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for gastroesophageal reflux disease, particularly in infants and individuals with asthma.  Although these medications may not have reached their apogee, more and more their effectiveness for so many ailments has been questioned.  In this month’s issue of JPGN, this is highlighted (JPGN 2012; 54: 8-14).  The article which emanates from the offices of the FDA discusses the fact that the usage of PPIs has increased 11-fold from 2002-2009 in infants <12months of age; 404,000 prescriptions were dispensed to 145,000 infants in the U.S. in 2009.    At the same time, althougth there have been four randomized controlled trials of PPIs in infants, NO studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these drugs in this population.  As a consequence, the authors recommend that these drugs be restricted to infants with endoscopically-proven GERD/erosive esophagitis.  No other tools are sufficient to identify infants who are likely to respond.  Perhaps the reason why these agents work less well in infants is due to the fact that acid secretion is much less in infants than in children and adults.  For example, at 4months of life, average acid secretion rate in infants is ~27-fold lower than in adults (Am J Dig Dis 1969; 14: 400-14). As a consequence, their symptoms may not be responsive to acid reduction treatments.

Other related references on GERD in infancy:

JPGN 2010; 50: 609-18. Pantoprazole helped improve symptoms but there were no significant differences compared to placeblo in withdrawal rates due to lack of efficacy. n=128.
-NASPGHAN 2009, Abstract#21. Meds/Rx of NICU pts did not shorten hospital stay or promote wt gain, n=1149.
JPGN 2009; 49: 498. NASPGHAN GERD guidelines. “In infants and toddlers, there is no symptom or symptom complex that is diagnositc of GERD or predicts response to therapy.” Identical response to placebo (vs prevacid) in largest double-blind randomized study (54% at 4 weeks) (J Pediatrics 2009; 154: 514-20.)-Reflux is “not a common cause of unexplained crying. otherwise healthy infants.” “There is no evidence to support the empiric use of acid suppression for the treatment of irritable infants.”

GERD and respiratory/ENT issues:

Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 1887. PPIs decreased postnasal drainage compared to placebo. n=75. (50% vs 5%) age discrepancy in patient populations.
Clin Gastro & Hep 2010; 8: 741 (excellent editorial), 770 (article on rabeprazole improving heartburn Sx in pts with laryngitis), n=82. Editorial suggests 1-2month trial of BID PPI and if not effective, then little to offer. May change when studies looking at surgery (after impedance) outcomes.
Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 754. 716 (editorial). Acoustic cough & reflux. Study recorded cough during pH measurement. n=71. ‘causality cannot be established until effective treatment’ available.
Gastroenterology 2009; 137: 1844. Critical review of below NEJM article. ‘a subset of asthmatics will have objective detection of GERD without typical symptoms…work by Amer Lung Assn suggests that twice daily PPI will not be helpful’..however, ‘perhaps 3-6months of PPI may still be reasonable until we can accurately identify subgroups of pts who may respond.’ –Gary Falk, Cleveland Clinic
NEJM 2009; 360: 1487, 1551. Use of PPIs (nexium 40mg bid) in poorly-controlled asthma with no symptoms of GER –did not help w asthma control & pH studies were not predictive of response. n=412 adults. 40% c abnl pH studies in each group (nexium vs. placebo).
Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 1379. Review of ENT findings and reflux.
Am J Gastro 2007; 102: 716. Poor specificity of ENT findings for diagnosis of laryngopharyngeal reflux.
Aliment Pharm Ther 2007; 25: 385-92. meta-analysis. Rx c PPIs not more effective than placebo in resolving ENT symptoms presumed to be due to GER. Editorial suggests some patients may benefit, but better tools are needed to identify them.

GERD and surgery:

Gastroenterology 2011; 141: 1938.  LOTUS study in JAMA summarized in this review. (JAMA 2011; 305: 1969) Medical treatment outperformed surgery. 92% under control (remission) with long term medical Rx vs 85% with surgery & fewer side effects of medical treatment.
Clin Gastro & Hepatology 2009; 7: 1292, 1264 (editorial). 12yr outcomes for surgery vs PPI. n=154 omeprazole, n=144 surgery. Similar long term outcome ~50% with long term remission.

Pediatrics 2006; 118:1828. 48,665 antireflux surgeries done from 1996-2003 (~7000/yr) in US

Clin Gastro & Hep 2006; 4: 299. Frequent complications post-op and frequent need for GERD meds.  Dysphagia in 19%, dilatation in 6%, repeat surgery in 2%, mortality in 0.8% (n=3145). 50% required GERD meds.

Clin Gastro & Hep 2004; 2: 978-984. Pediatric study.  n=198.  63% required post-op treatment for recurrent GERD -retrospective review 1996-99.

Proton Pump Inhibitors and reported adverse effects:

-Risk of Hypomagnesemmia -2011.
NEJM 2010; 363: 2114. large Denmark study. 5082 fetuses with PPI exposure (out of 840,968 live births). Risk of birth defects NOT increased with exposure during 1st trimester. Possible slight increase risk with preconception use except with omeprazole.
Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 1115. Review of safety of PPIs.
Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 93. n=167,000. PPIs associated with hip fracture risk, OR 1.3, in patients with other risk factors.
Gastroenterology 2010; 138: 896-904. 5yrs of PPI -no increase risk in hip/spine fx.
Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 765-71, 747 (ed). PP not related to hip fx (n=161,806) women 50-79. INCREASE risk of spine fx, hazard risk 1.47
Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 772-8. PPIs increase risk of Clostridium difficile infection (hazard ratio 1.42 –42% increase in risk), n=1166.
Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 784-90. n=101,796. OR 1.74 for daily PPI, OR 2.36 if BID Rx; thus ~70% increase risk of nosocomial infection.
Clin Gastro & Hep 2010; 8: 504. Increased bacterial overgrowth with PPI use.

-JAMA 2009; 301: 2120-2128. Use of PPIs associated with INCREASED hospital acquired pneumonia by ~30%. Could result in 180,000 HAP cases/yr with ~33,000 deaths. n+ 63,878 admissions, 52% on PPIs or H2RAs (83% PPIs, 17% H2RAs). H2RAs NOT associated with HAP cases.
Gastroenterology 2009; 137: 80. PPIs induce acid-related symptoms in ~22% vs 7% of placebo in healthy volunteers.
Ann Intern Med 2008; 149: 391-398. Risk for pneumonia associated with short-term PPI use, not long term
Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 1418. Increases risk of bacterial gastroenteritis.
JPGN 2007; 45: 395, 421. Increasing use of PPIs-4-fold from 2000-2003; 0.5% of all infants. No safety/efficacy data.
J Pediatrics 2007; 150: 262. Long term use (up to 11yrs of usage) of PPIs in 166 children; minimal problems: 2 c nausea, 2 c skin rash, 1 c diarrhea, 1 c agitation.
JAMA 2006; 296: 2947-53. Risk of bone fracture –odds ratio 1.44-2.65 with long-term PPI treatment (>1yr); UK study looked at 1.8million