New study shows hepatitis C burden may ease in future

Anew study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine projects that the prevalence of hepatitis C will shrink in the coming decades thanks to new medicines and increased screening regimens.

Currently, approximately one in 100 people are infected with the virus, and researchers expect that number to drop to about one in 1,500 people by 2036 if patients have timely and affordable treatment.

“We were pleasantly surprised that in the next 22 years we could make this a rare disease,” said Jagpreet Chhatwal, the study’s senior author from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

More than 3.2 million people have chronic hepatitis C infections that cost the public healthcare system about $6.5 billion per year.

The study is based on a computer model that estimates how the burden of hepatitis C infection may decline in the coming decades. Researchers also asserted that the U.S. could reach the same goal by 2026 by using a more aggressive screening protocol. The current screening regimen would identify about 487,000 cases of hepatitis C infection within the next 10 years, but using a one-time, universal screening policy could increase the number of cases to more than 933,000, according to researchers.

The authors concluded that new medicines and increased screening regimens will help patients and the healthcare system overall.

The study can be found in the Annals of Internal Medicine here. The Reuters Health story can be found here.

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