Fewer than 1 in 3 people infected with hepatitis C are receiving the expensive treatments that can cure it, according to a US government study released Tuesday.
The report is troubling because it focused on people with health insurance — the group most likely to be treated for the liver infection, said an expert, Dr. Norah Terrault.
Insurance restrictions appear to be partly responsible for the surprisingly low percentage. Treatment can cost tens of thousands of dollars but wipe out the infection in just a few months.
There may also not be enough GPs prescribing the drugs, perhaps because they feel it should be treated by a specialist, or may be put off by the paperwork that may be required, experts said.
“It’s a wake-up call that we still have work to do,” said Terrault, president-elect of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person. Most Americans get infected by sharing needles used to inject illicit drugs, and the estimated number of new infections has risen amid the current opioid epidemic, officials say. The virus causes most of its damage by infecting the liver and can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
In 2014, new drugs came onto the market and annual deaths from hepatitis fell. The pills cure about 90% of the people who take them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued Tuesday’s report.
The study found that overall, less than a third of those with health insurance received the hepatitis C medication within a year of diagnosis. The results are based on insurance claims from nearly 50,000 US adults under the age of 70.
The study didn’t include people who didn’t have insurance or hadn’t yet received a diagnosis – meaning the proportion of people receiving treatment is likely even smaller, said study author Dr. CDC’s Carolyn Wester.
Treatment rates were lowest among patients on state-administered Medicaid plans. Some states require that specialists prescribe the drugs, patients have liver damage, or that patients abstain from drugs and alcohol for months initially.
“Not all insurance is the same,” Wester said. Such restrictions are not in line with prescribing guidelines, she added.
https://nypost.com/2022/08/11/less-than-1-in-3-hepatitis-c-patients-are-getting-the-cure/ Less than 1 in 3 hepatitis C patients are cured