A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cincinnati has found that it is cost-effective to target populations with a higher estimated prevalence of hepatitis C for disease screening.
"Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the U.S. and will become an increasing source of morbidity and mortality with aging of the infected population," said Kenneth Sherman, M.D., Ph.D. "Our objective in this study was to develop decision analytic models, exploring the cost-effectiveness of screening in populations with varying prevalence of hepatitis C and risks for liver fibrosis - or scarring - in those with the illness who do not receive treatment. Liver fibrosis results in a damaged liver, and the patient eventually needs a transplant, increasing cost of care."
The findings, which are published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, are based on a computer modeling study. The model explored strategies of screening followed by guideline-based treatment, if needed, as well as the effects of not conducting recommended screenings. Effectiveness was measured in quality-adjusted life years - accounting for both duration of survival and quality of life.
Researchers found that screening followed by guideline-based treatment for those with chronic hepatitis C costs $47,000 per quality-adjusted life year. However, infected individuals who were not screened and subsequently did not receive early treatment ended up investing significantly more money in their medical care throughout the years.
Researchers also stated that electronic medical records can be used to target individuals who may be at risk for the disease.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids with an infected person. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. However, most people do not know they are infected because they don't look or feel sick.
The CDC recently recommended that everyone born between the years 1945 and 1965 be screened for the disease, which can cause long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer or death. However, researchers involved in the UC study state that this strategy may miss screening high-risk patients born in different years.