MIAMI- It is estimated that more than 2 million people in the United States are living with hepatitis C. Today, new government data shows that many patients are not receiving treatment for this deadly but curable infection.
It’s been nearly a decade since a breakthrough treatment for hepatitis C became available in the United States. A new CDC report shows that fewer than one in three people with health insurance receive antiviral treatment within a year of diagnosis.
Dr. Carolyn Wester, director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, said, “It can cure more than 95% of people who take it with just 8 to 12 weeks of oral treatment alone.”
Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to advanced liver disease, liver cancer, and even death. Experts say insurance restrictions may be part of the reason for the low treatment rates. Treatment can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Dr Wester said: “We need to remove eligibility restrictions, onerous prior authorization requirements and ensure that people with hepatitis C have access to treatment in the settings where they receive care, such as primary care practices and treatment centers for substance use disorders. »
New hepatitis C infections are increasing due to rising rates of injection drug use amid the nation’s opioid crisis. The new report shows that treatment rates are lowest among adults under 40.
“These treatment levels are of particular concern because this group is the same group that we see the highest rates of new infections,” Dr Wester said.
The CDC says making sure everyone has access to treatment is essential for a person’s health and for preventing new infections.
It is estimated that around 40% of people with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection. The CDC recommends that every adult get tested for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime.