Regular Screening Is Key for Hepatitis C

MAY 15, 2017
Amy Jacob


“One of the big problems we’re having right now is trying to identify these patients with hepatitis C,” Rick Davis, PA-C, University of Florida College of Medicine told MD Magazine. “We’ve found that the birth cohort of baby boomers (1945-1965) has the highest prevalence of infection, and now we’re starting to see the results of that.” 
 
Davis explained that in patients that have chronic infection for 20-30 years, over 75% will go on to develop cirrhosis. This is where most of the complications occur with hepatitis C: increased risk of liver cancer, decompensation of liver disease, hospitalization, and unfortunately death.
 
He said that although there are good therapies that exist with very few side effects, Davis and team hope to get the primary care audience to identify more of these patients. “Even though these guidelines have been out for maybe 3 years or so, we’re still not getting the numbers screened that we should as part of patients’ regular screening care as you would for a mammogram or colon cancer screening.”
 
Davis explained that although the simple blood test for screening hepatitis C patients had initially experienced pushback, there are now ICD10 codes for this that can be used.
 
Interestingly, he pointed out that in the past providers used to ask whether patients had risk factors and ever used IV drugs, but “most people are not going to own up to whatever they did in the 70s or 60s now, they may be the Mayor of their towns or professional folks – that’s in their distant past. So, we don’t really care about that.”
 
Davis did stress there may be other risk factors in that birth cohort and that all they aim to do is identify the patients were born between 1945-1965 and reassure them they deserve a one-time blood test. “If it’s positive, then they need to have a confirmatory blood test to see do they have the infection now or have they cleared it and then linkage to care for treatment.”

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