Despite Lifesaving Hepatitis C Drugs, Testing Rates Remain Low

Need for an increase in HCV testing awareness among health care providers and baby boomers.

In 2013, the US Preventive Services Task force recommended all individuals in the Baby Boomer age group be tested for hepatitis C virus (HCV). But in the 2 years that followed, testing levels remained very low.

For the study, investigators used data from the National Health Interview Survey, including 24,000 baby boomers.

The results of the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that from 2013 to 2015, there was only a slight rise in HCV testing, increasing from 12.3% to 13.8%. Additionally, investigators estimated that of the 76.2 million baby boomers in 2015, only 10.5 million reported receiving an HCV test.

Individuals with Medicare, Medicaid, or military insurance had higher HCV testing rates compared with individuals who have private insurance. The authors noted that testing levels were highest among men and college graduates.

“These findings underscore the need for increased awareness for HCV testing among health care providers and baby boomers and other innovative strategies such as a state-mandated HCV testing,” the authors concluded.

In a separate analysis of HCV treatment regimens in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system, investigators found that the increase in access and availability to efficacious and well-tolerated medications dramatically changed health care for patients.

The findings were based on a review of 107,079 HCV treatment regimens that began from 1999 through 2015 with the VA system, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

The results of the study were published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and showed that cure rates increased steadily from 19.2% in 1999 to 36% in 2010. Following this period, the numbers dramatically increased to 90.5% in 2015.

Within the last year of the interferon era, 1313 patients achieved virologic response in 2010, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported. Patients who achieved sustained response increased 5.6-fold in 2014 and 21-fold in 2015.

“The introduction of effective direct antiviral agents together with the allocation of appropriate funds and resources allowed the VA health care system to treat and cure hepatitis C in unprecedented numbers,” said senior author George Ionnou, MD. “In fact, out of approximately 57,500 patients cured of hepatitis C in the VA since 1999, approximately half were cured in a single year in 2015.”