Help is Here, but You Aren't Eligible

Patients with hepatitis C virus are more likely to lack health insurance coverage

(RxWiki News) Lack of health insurance coverage may affect hepatitis C patients' access to current antiviral treatments, according to a new study.

Using data gathered from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, researchers analyzed the health and insurance status and treatment eligibility of patients with hepatitis C virus. The researchers found that 61 percent of HCV-positive patients had health insurance coverage, while over 80 percent of HCV-negative individuals were insured.

The study also showed that only a third of patients with hepatitis C virus had access to antiviral therapy.

According to lead author Zobair Younossi, M.D., M.P.H., from the Center of Liver Diseases at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, antiviral therapy can improve the health-related quality of life among patients with hepatitis C virus. Furthermore, adds Dr. Younossi, it is possible that antiviral therapy could reduce morbidity and mortality among patients infected with hepatitis C virus.

HCV-positive patients who lacked access to antiviral therapy were either uninsured or were ineligible for the therapy because of treatment contradictions. As past studies have shown, only have of patients with hepatitis C virus show positive results from antiviral treatment using peginterferon/ribavirin. Otherwise, the severe side effects of current antiviral treatment necessitate careful selection of eligible patients, says Dr. Younossi. Typically, HCV-positive patients with other serious diseases - such as active cardiac disease, severe depression, and renal failure - are not eligible for antiviral treatment because of severe side effects, including depression and flu-like symptoms.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes chronic HCV infection, which in turn can cause chronic liver disease, liver cancer, and liver transplantation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis C virus causes an estimated 12,000 deaths each year in the United States. Because chronic HCV infections does not have specific symptoms, as much as 75 percent of patients do not know they are infected.

Dr. Younossi believes it is critical that patients with hepatitis C virus have access to health care. He concludes that these patients' lack of access to health care should be considered as new health care reforms go into effect.

These findings are published in the March issue of Hepatology.

Review Date: 
February 27, 2011