Study Looks at Barriers to Hepatitis C Treatment

AUGUST 18, 2016
Catherine Kolonko
The findings indicate that hepatitis C treatment referrals varied and that medication use did not increase as quickly as expected, even though MassHealth has few restrictions on treatment access. Antiviral treatment with the two drugs was requested for a relatively small proportion of the afflicted MassHealth members, and nearly all were approved, according to the article.
The review did not look at other states, but the authors believe that the percentage of eligible patients who are treated is similar or lower because many other states have stiffer requirements. The results suggest that there could be a large group of untreated patients who could benefit from new treatment and may request it in the future, the authors stated.
Health officials estimate that at least 3 million people in the US have hepatitis C, a blood borne virus that can seriously damage the liver over time. Public health campaigns have encouraged testing among high-risk groups because a common lack of symptoms means it’s possible to have chronic infection of the virus and not know it.
The fastest growing number of new cases of hepatitis C are among people who are intravenous drug users. The study found that people with substance use disorders were less likely to have requested treatment than MassHealth members with advanced liver disease.
“In order to reduce future health care costs and premature mortality associated with HCV [chronic hepatitis C virus], the number of patients receiving these potentially curative antiviral treatments must be increased,” stated the authors. “This study suggests that there are barriers to treatment access in addition to the high cost of these medications that will have to be addressed in order to achieve this goal.”

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