Treatment with direct-acting antivirals improves outcomes for hepatitis C patients

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The results are published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Direct-acting antiviral medicines (DAAs) show great promise as a way of improving the overall health of patients with chronic hepatitis C, according to results of a recent study.

As part of a national hepatitis C collaborative, researchers at Henry Ford Health System analyzed data from 6,100 patients with hepatitis C, half of whom were treated with DAAs. They found that the patients treated with DAAs had lower rates of hospitalization and shorter stays for both liver and non-liver-related health issues compared to those not receiving the DAAs, and had fewer emergency department visits for issues related to liver disease.

The study is believed to be the first examining health care utilization among hepatitis C patients with and without advanced liver disease and treated with DAAs, according to a Henry Ford news release. The results are published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“The findings of our study show that curing hepatitis C not only gets rid of the virus, it also improves the overall health of patients,” Stuart Gordon, M.D., director of Henry Ford’s division of hepatology and the study’s lead author, says in the release.

The results, he adds, are “consistent with our earlier studies that showed effective treatment of hepatitis C also reduces the risk of patients developing other health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, stroke and heart attacks.” DAAs have been shown to cure hepatitis C in 98% of patients who take them, the release states.

The release cites federal data showing that rates of new liver cancer cases rose by 38% from 2003 to 2012, and that at least 2.4 million Americans have hepatitis C, many without knowing it.

While researchers did not quantify the potential cost savings resulting from DAA treatment, Gordon said they would be substantial. “If you’re cured of the virus, your overall health will get better and you’re less likely to be hospitalized for some other health condition,” he said.

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Geisinger Health System, Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii and Oregon and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They comprise the Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study, which has been collecting and analyzing data drawn from the four health systems to assess the impact of hepatitis C and B on the U.S. population.