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Alarming trend -- antiviral therapy to treat hepatitis C is declining in the US
Date:11/23/2009

Researchers from the University of Michigan determined that only 663,000 of the approximately 3.9 million Americans with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection received antiviral therapy between 2002 and 2007. Treatment rates appear to be declining, in part because only half of the patients know they are infected. If this disturbing trend continues, by 2030 less than 15% of liver-related deaths from HCV will be prevented by antiviral therapy. This study, the first to analyze nationwide practice patterns for HCV treatment, is published in the December issue of Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

HCV is a common blood-borne infection that slowly damages the liver by causing inflammation of liver tissue, which can lead to cirrhosis, chronic liver disease, and liver cancer. In the U.S., HCV is a major public health burden and the leading cause of liver transplantation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 8,000-12,000 deaths occur each year due to HCV. While the incidence of new infections has declined, past studies point to a twofold to fourfold increase in death over the next 20 years due to widespread cases with longstanding infection.

Michael Volk, M.D., M.Sc., and colleagues obtained data of new patient prescriptions for pegylated interferon alpha-2a and -2b, sold under the brand names Pegasys and Peg Intron, respectively, and filled between 2002- 2007. Results of the prescription audit showed there were 126,000 new prescriptions for pegylated interferon products in 2002 and by 2007 that figured declined to 83,000 prescriptions. Researchers project fewer than 1.4 million patients would be treated cumulatively with antiviral medication by 2030 if the downward trend continued.

To further understand the decrease in antiviral therapy, researchers investigated treatment decisions using data from the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES
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Contact: Dawn Peters
medicalnews@wiley.com
781-388-8408
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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