FRIDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Primary care-based screening
for hepatitis C in people born between 1945 and 1965 is
cost-effective and lifesaving, a new study says.
This type of screening could identify more than 800,000
undiagnosed cases of hepatitis C infection in the United States and
save thousands of lives each year, according to the
About 1.5 percent of people in the United States are infected
with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can cause inflammation and
permanent liver damage. As many as three-quarters of people with
HCV don't know they're infected.
In 2005, HCV infection caused up to 13,000 deaths in the United
States, but that number could nearly triple by 2030 if current
recommendations for HCV diagnosis and treatment remain unchanged,
according to the study authors.
Developing hepatitis C today is less likely today because of
improved screening of the universal blood supply and better
infection-control techniques. Those considered most at risk are
people born between 1945 and 1965 who may have been exposed before
those advances were made.
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends HCV screening only for people with certain high-risk
health or lifestyle behaviors, including a history of injection
drug use, a blood transfusion before 1992 or being a chronic
For this study, the researchers developed a computer model to
examine the impact of primary care-based screening of people born
between 1945 and 1965. Compared to the current strategy of
screening high-risk individuals, primary care-based screening
followed by standard treatment would result in 82,300 fewer deaths
per year at a cost of $15,700 per quality adjusted life-year (QALY)
Adding direct acting antiviral drug treatment to standard
treatment (pegylated interferon and ribavirin) would prevent about
121,000 deaths per year at a cost of $35,000 per QALY gained.
The study, published online in the journal
Annals of Internal Medicine, will be presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting, Nov. 4 to 8.
"First, the strategy would identify over 800,000 people with hepatitis C if it were fully implemented, and second, the strategy is at least as cost-effective as many routinely administered preventive practices such as breast cancer screening or colorectal screening," lead author David Rein, principal research scientist of the Public Health Research Division at the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center, said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
has more about