Patients Cured of Hepatitis With Direct-Acting Antivirals Have Fewer Health Issues

Study highlights the impressive efficacy of direct-acting antivirals, which have cure rates in the range of 98% in patients with hepatitis C.

Patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) administered direct-acting antiviral (DAAs) drugs are less likely to be hospitalized or seek emergency care for liver and non-liver related health issues, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Henry Ford Health System, highlights the impressive efficacy of DAAs, which have cure rates in the range of 98% in patients with HCV. Patients are considered cured when the virus is no longer detectable in their blood.

“The findings of our study show that curing hepatitis C not only gets rid of the virus, it also improves the overall health of patients,” said study lead author Stuart Gordon, MD, director of the Division of Hepatology at Henry Ford, in a press release. “This is consistent with our earlier studies that showed effective treatment of hepatitis C also reduces the risk of patients developing other health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, stroke and heart attacks.”

Federal data show that approximately 2.4 million people are infected with HCV in the United States, the majority of whom are unaware they have the virus, which places these individuals at a greater risk for developing liver disease and cancer. As such, rates of new liver cancer cases jumped by 38% from 2003 to 2012, according to the investigators.

The study, a collaboration led by Henry Ford with researchers from Geisinger Health System, Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii and Oregon, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed data from the 4 health systems to evaluate the impact of HCV and hepatitis B on the US population.

The authors said they believe this observational study is the first to evaluate health care use involving patients with HCV, with and without advanced liver disease, and treated with DAAs. In total, data from 6100 patients were analyzed, half of whom were treated with DAAs and half of whom were not.

The patients administered DAAs were found to have lower rates of hospitalization and shorter stays for liver and non-liver related health issues compared to those who did not receive DAAs. Further, patients administered DAAs had fewer visits to the emergency department for liver disease-related issues versus those who did not receive DAAs.

Potential cost savings from avoiding hospitalizations because of fewer chronic medical issues and potential liver transplantation were not evaluated as part of the study; however, the Gordon said the savings would be substantial.

“There are tangible downstream benefits from these antiviral treatments,” Gordon said in the release. “If you’re cured of the virus, your overall health will get better and you’re less likely to be hospitalized for some other health condition.”