Screen middle-aged adults for hepatitis C: panel

NEW YORK Mon Jun 24, 2013 5:04pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adults born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened once for hepatitis C, a government-backed panel recommended today.

The statement, from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), is stronger than draft recommendations published in November, which advised doctors to "consider offering screening" to members of the Baby Boom generation (see Reuters Health story of Nov 26, 2012 here: reut.rs/WsjtVA).

The final recommendations - which also call for screening people at high risk of hepatitis C, such as injection drug users - were published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The "moderate" net benefit of screening was supported by studies showing people with the chronic infection who take medicine and have a very low level of the virus in their blood - known as a sustained viral response - are at lower risk of liver cirrhosis, cancer and death.

"New evidence came out since the draft recommendation, which gave us greater confidence in the linkage between a sustained viral response and important outcomes," Dr. Albert Siu, co-vice chair of the task force, told Reuters Health.

The USPSTF also found that tools used to assess liver health and guide treatment are becoming safer, and that the harms of hepatitis C medication, including headaches and flu-like symptoms, are "small."

Hepatitis C is treated with a combination regimen of ribavirin and peginterferon alfa (also commonly known as Pegasys and Peg-Intron), to which newer drugs - known as boceprevir (Victrelis) and telaprevir (Incivek) - can be added.

Siu, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said the rate of hepatitis C among people born in 1945 through 1965 is about 4 percent, compared to about 1 percent among other Americans.

That difference is likely due to "risky behavior that was engaged in during this time," he said.

Many people living with hepatitis C are not aware they have the condition, the task force said, and may go years without showing symptoms.

Stanford University's Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, who worked on one of the studies that influenced the updated recommendation, told Reuters Health that screening middle-aged adults seems to be effective and cost-effective - but that there are other considerations as well.

"It's really important that when screening is rolled out, that we ensure that those people who screen positive have access to timely, high-quality treatment," he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/bN9DEh Annals of Internal Medicine, online June 24, 2013.

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Comments (3)
davidrexglenn wrote:
This is like the 5th article I have seen on this topic in the last year. In none of these articles was it mentioned why Hep C seems would be prevalent in Baby Boomers. What vector between ’45 and ’65 was responsible for this particular virus?

Jun 24, 2013 6:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ConchKey wrote:
Hep C was discovered in the 1980s and not screened for until 1992. Blood transfusions and any medical injections could have exposed people to the virus. Drug users who snorted or injected stuff are at high risk. Today thousands of people have been exposed through medical procedures which have made the news here and there. This is a virus everyone should be screened for prior to any medical procedure involving blood. The very sad thing about Hep C victims is that Gilead and BMS have developed a 100% cure for this virus but are not taking it to market over concerns for their share holders ignoring the plight of those those millions of Americans infected. 30 people a day die in the U.S. from this disease. It is in my opinion that if the truth were to be known about the risk of exposure to this virus people would not hesitate to be tested. Viet Nam Vets are also in the high risk category. Cosmetic, dental and other types of procedures also carry a high risk for exposure Basically anywhere shots are given or blood is present. Do yourself a favor get the test.

Jun 25, 2013 7:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ConchKey wrote:
Hep C was discovered in the 1980s and not screened for until 1992. Blood transfusions and any medical injections could have exposed people to the virus. Drug users who snorted or injected stuff are at high risk. Today thousands of people have been exposed through medical procedures which have made the news here and there. This is a virus everyone should be screened for prior to any medical procedure involving blood. The very sad thing about Hep C victims is that Gilead and BMS have developed a 100% cure for this virus but are not taking it to market over concerns for their share holders ignoring the plight of those those millions of Americans infected. 30 people a day die in the U.S. from this disease. It is in my opinion that if the truth were to be known about the risk of exposure to this virus people would not hesitate to be tested. Viet Nam Vets are also in the high risk category. Cosmetic, dental and other types of procedures also carry a high risk for exposure Basically anywhere shots are given or blood is present. Do yourself a favor get the test.

Jun 25, 2013 7:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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