A newer therapy for the treatment of hepatitis C has prompted the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force to consider new guidelines for the virus and other health systems to adopt more beneficial services for patients affected.
The Task Force reviewed hepatitis C screening in 2013, but revisited its recommendations in 2019 as a result of new therapies known as “direct acting antivirals” (DAAs), which have been shown to eliminate the virus from most infected persons, according to Stephen Parodi, MD, chairman of the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP) Board, EVP of External Affairs, Communications, and Brand at The Permanente Federation, and associate executive director for The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG).
“Previously, the treatments available for hepatitis C were quite toxic and not very effective. The DAAs are expensive, estimating $1,000 a pill, but are one-time therapies,” Parodi says.
After reviewing evidence, benefits, and harms of DAAs, the Task Force grades the service under review. If the Task Force assigns a service a grade of A or B, then insurers must follow new guidelines of covering the service with $0 copay. Congress added this preventive benefit as section 2713 of the ACA in 2010, and it applies to all group and individual health issuers, says Parodi.
This new guideline could affect millions of Americans.
According to Parodi, nearly 2.4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, and the CDC estimates that one in 30 baby boomers is infected with the virus. In Louisiana alone, 90,000 people are known to be living with hepatitis C.
“The CDC recommends testing for Americans born between 1945 and 1965,” he says. “Testing is important because most people don’t experience early symptoms to know they have the virus. By treating the patient before liver cirrhosis, it stops the progress of the disease and the patient is less likely to develop liver cancer.”