Delaying Hepatitis C Treatment Increases Death Risk

Delays can negatively affect treatment efficacy and the risk of morbidity and mortality among patients.

Delays can negatively affect treatment efficacy and the risk of morbidity and mortality among patients.

With the high cost of current hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug regimens, many patients have difficulty obtaining access to treatment. New research finds, however, that these delays may have deadly consequences for patients.

A study presented this week at The International Liver Congress 2015 found that treatment delays can negatively impact treatment efficacy, which increases the risk of morbidity and mortality among HCV-infected patients.

The researchers utilized retrospective data from the US Veterans Administration to estimate the impact on morbidity and death risk if treatment was initiated before or after FIB4 levels become elevated in HCV-infected patients. The FIB4 predicts fibrosis based on standard biochemical values and age.

The results showed that delaying treatment until after the FIB4 level exceeds 3.25 has a decisively negative impact on treatment efficacy. Meanwhile, delaying therapy until after the FIB4 level exceeds 1.45 or 1.00 has a less negative impact on treatment efficacy.

The researchers concluded that delaying treatment to reduce costs has a significantly detrimental impact on patients, which can accelerate mortality.

“Once HCV diagnosis has been confirmed, the most suitable treatment should be initiated as soon as feasible balancing budgetary cash-flow issues against adverse impacts on patients,” the researchers wrote.