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NVHR: New Data Finding Fewer than 1 in 5 Hepatitis C Patients Receiving Antiviral Therapy is 'Wake-Up Call' for Washington
Date:11/24/2009

mber issue of Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Among the key findings:

  • Only about 663,000 of the estimated 3.9 million Americans infected with chronic hepatitis C virus received antiviral therapy between 2002 and 2007;
  • Treatment rates appear to be declining in part because only one-half of all HCV patients know they are infected;
  • Barriers to HCV screening including the absence of health insurance coverage, limited access to standard medical care, and lower priority of HCV testing by primary care physicians; and
  • Increased public health efforts are needed to improve access to antiviral therapy and the researchers recommend further research of health services delivery and quality of care for HCV patients.

Last month, bipartisan legislation, "the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control Act," was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congressmen Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Charles Dent (R-Penn.) and co-sponsored by 10 House Members. HR 3974 would support a comprehensive prevention, research, and medical management referral program for chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The bill would provide a relatively modest $90 million in funding in 2011 - with additional funding thereafter - that will increase the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance efforts.

An estimated 5.4 million Americans are infected with either chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C infection. Most individuals are not aware they are infected and unable to take advantage of promising treatments. According to the respected research firm Milliman, the cost of chronic hepatitis C virus infection alone could reach $85 billion annually by 2024. Medicare and Medicaid are projected to absorb a disproportionate share of those costs
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