The baby boomer generation came of age during a time of experimentation, and many individuals who may have tried injectable drugs, even once, and never thought of themselves as having a problem, may be infected with the hepatitis C virus, says Eckman. “While these silent cases have been hanging out for decades what has changed recently is the new epidemic of hepatitis C in younger patients related to drug use,” he says.
Eckman says the cost to treat HCV can range from $9,000 to $30,000 per month depending on the medications being used, and that many health insurance plans, including Medicare Part D and most Medicaid plans cover the costs of treatment. For individuals without health insurance, treatment may remain a challenge, he adds.
Eckman says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is currently reviewing and updating guidelines for hepatitis C and it’s possible a broadening of the current screening recommendations may occur.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C infection prevents development of progressive liver disease, and reduces long-term risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and other HCV-associated health problems”, says study co-author and liver expert, Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, Gould Professor of Medicine and Director in the UC Division of Digestive Diseases.
John Ward, MD from the Task Force for Global Health and the CDC is also a co-author of the study. Funding for the study came from the CDC Foundation along with support coming from multiple donors to the CDC Foundation’s Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition.
Sherman has grants/contracts (institutional funding) from AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, Inovio, Intercept, MedImmune, and Merck, and serves on advisory boards for Abbott Laboratories, Gilead, MedImmune, Merck, and Inovio. Sherman also serves on safety monitoring boards for Watermark and MedPace. Eckman has grant support from Merck through the Merck Investigator Studies Program.