Hepatitis C patients cured with antiviral drugs are less likely to be hospitalized, need ER care for liver or other health problems

Newswise – DETROIT (February 18, 2022) – Henry Ford Health System researchers, as part of a national hepatitis C collaboration, report that patients with chronic hepatitis C who are treated with antiviral drugs that work direct are less likely to be hospitalized or seek emergency care for liver and non-liver related health problems.

The study, published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, highlights the extraordinary effect of these new antivirals, which have been shown to cure hepatitis C in 98% of patients who take them. Patients are said to be cured when the virus is no longer detectable in their blood.

“The results of our study show that curing hepatitis C not only eliminates the virus, but also improves the overall health of patients,” said Stuart Gordon, MD, director of the division of hepatology at Henry Ford and author. principal of the study. “This is consistent with our previous studies which have shown that effective treatment of hepatitis C also reduces the risk of patients developing other health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, strokes and seizures. heart.”

According to federal data, at least 2.4 million people are living with hepatitis C in the United States, and most are unaware they have the virus. As a result, they are at risk for life-threatening liver disease and cancer. Rates of new cases of liver cancer increased by 38% between 2003 and 2012.

The Henry Ford-led study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Geisinger Health System, Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii and Oregon, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They include the Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study, which collected and analyzed data from the four health systems to assess the impact of hepatitis C and B on the US population.

This observational study is believed to be the first to examine healthcare utilization involving hepatitis C patients with and without advanced liver disease treated with direct-acting antivirals, or DAAs.

The researchers analyzed data from 6,100 patients – half who were treated with DAAs and half who were not.

Antivirals are taken by mouth once a day for eight to 12 weeks. Side effects are mild to non-existent. Medications prevent the hepatitis C virus from multiplying in the body and can prevent long-term complications such as liver damage.

Main results of the study:

  • Patients treated with DAAs had lower hospitalization rates and shorter stays for liver and non-liver related health problems compared to those who did not receive DAAs.
  • Patients treated with DAAs had fewer emergency department visits for problems related to liver disease compared to those who did not receive DAAs.

The researchers did not quantify the potential cost savings in the study.

Still, Dr Gordon said the expected cost savings would be substantial. People cured of hepatitis C lead to a decrease in the incidence of chronic medical problems associated with the disease, he said.

“There are tangible benefits downstream from these antiviral treatments,” he said. “If you are cured of the virus, your general health will improve and you will be less likely to be hospitalized for another health condition.”

A one-time universal screening for hepatitis C is recommended for all adults 18 years of age and older, including pregnant women, with each pregnancy. Regular screening for hepatitis C is recommended for people with ongoing risk factors such as drug use with needles, on dialysis, and those born between 1945 and 1965.

Last year, Michigan lifted restrictions that prevented some people from accessing antiviral treatment. “Given the remarkable efficacy and benefits of these DAAs, all people with hepatitis C should be treated and treated promptly,” Dr. Gordon said.

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