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Standard Hepatitis C Treatment Cost-Effective for Prisoners

Study finds therapy reduces new infections, cuts outlays

THURSDAY, Oct. 23, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Using the standard drug therapy of pegylated-interferon and ribavirin would be a cost-effective way of treating all U.S. prisoners who have hepatitis C, a new study says.

Between 12 percent and 31 percent of U.S. prisoners are infected with chronic hepatitis C (HCV), mostly caused by intravenous drug use. Many prisoners aren't treated, however, because states adopt their own treatment guidelines, even though treatment could reduce new infections and reduce future medical costs from advanced liver disease, the study authors said.

Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined published studies and created a decision-analysis model to determine if HCV treatment of prisoners would meet the generally accepted cost-effectiveness threshold of $50,000 per quality-adjusted life years.

"Our model found that treatment was cost-saving for prisoners of all age ranges and genotypes, when liver biopsy was not a prerequisite to starting antiviral therapy," the study authors wrote. "In other words, treatment resulted in both decreased costs and improved quality of life."

They also found that treatment was cost-saving in most cases that included a liver biopsy.

"If the decision to treat is based on pharmacoeconomic measures, the results of our analysis suggest that treatment is cost-saving and should not be withheld in U.S. prisoners with hepatitis C," they concluded.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal Hepatology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about hepatitis C.

SOURCE: Hepatology, news release, Oct. 20, 2008
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