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Lack of health insurance limits hepatitis C patients' access to latest antiviral therapy
Date:2/24/2011

New research has determined that patients in the U.S. with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are twice as likely to not have health insurance coverage compared with those without the disease. In fact researchers found only a third of HCV infected Americans have access to antiviral therapy; the remaining are either uninsured or not candidates for therapy due to treatment contraindications. Details of this study are published in the March issue of Hepatology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

HCV is the most common cause of chronic liver disease, hepatocellular (liver) cancer, and liver transplantation in the U.S., with up to 85% of HCV-positive individuals (3.5 million) developing chronic HCV infection. Symptoms of chronic HCV are non-specific which can inhibit diagnosis and as many as 75% of patients are unaware of their HCV infection (Hagan et al., 2006). Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that HCV causes 12,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

"Successful treatment with antiviral therapy improves health-related quality of life in patients with HCV and could potentially reduce morbidity and mortality in patients," said Zobair Younossi, MD, MPH, from the Center of Liver Diseases at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia and lead author of the study. "A significant number of HCV patients, however, may not even have access to antiviral therapy due to lack of adequate health insurance coverage." It is estimated to cost up to $48,000 per year for monitoring and treatment of HCV.

For the current study, researchers analyzed health insurance status and treatment candidacy of HCV-positive individuals using 2005-2008 data collected from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES). This information was collected via household interviews, physical examinations and extensive laboratory sample data from subjects who were 18 years of age
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Contact: Dawn Peters
healthnews@wiley.com
781-388-8408
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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