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Study Predicts Hep C Therapy Will Prevent Few Deaths

Trend may be due to lack of patients being diagnosed and referred for treatment

MONDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- If present trends continue in the United States, only 14.5 percent of future hepatitis C-related deaths will be prevented by antiviral treatment, which may be due to a lack of patients diagnosed and referred for treatment, according to a study in the December issue of Hepatology.

Michael L. Volk, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor used data on pegylated interferon prescriptions for chronic hepatitis C in the United States from 2002 to 2007 to develop a model to estimate the impact of treatment on disease-related deaths from 2002 to 2030.

The researchers found that the number of patients receiving antiviral treatment has been declining, from 126,040 in 2002 to 83,270 in 2007. If this trend continues, they estimate that treatment would prevent only 14.5 percent of hepatitis C liver-related deaths from 2002 to 2030. A national survey of patients with hepatitis C indicated that 49 percent were previously unaware that they were infected.

"In conclusion, despite tremendous advances in antiviral therapy, current antiviral therapy is projected to prevent fewer than 15 percent of liver-related deaths caused by hepatitis C between 2002 and 2030," Volk and colleagues write. "One of the key findings of this study is that the future development of new and better medications will have a less than optimal impact on this problem unless more patients are diagnosed and referred for treatment."

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