Study: Hepatitis C May Kill More Americans Than HIV

The AP (2/21, Neergaard) reports, “Deaths from liver-destroying hepatitis C are on the rise, and new data shows baby boomers especially should take heed — they are most at risk.”

        “Deaths attributed to hepatitis in the US rose during the past decade to surpass those from HIV,” Bloomberg News (2/21, Flinn) reports. “Researchers studied 22 million death records from 1999 to 2007, finding 15,000 died from hepatitis C alone, compared with 13,000 from HIV.” They found that “as many as 1.4 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B…and 3.2 million have hepatitis C, with two-thirds born from 1946 to 1964,” according to the study published in the Feb. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

        MedPage Today (2/21, Smith) reports that “one-time screening and then treating people based on birth cohort – specifically those born from 1945 through 1965 – would be cost-effective,” argues a companion study in the same journal. Analysis revealed that “birth-cohort screening identified an extra 808,580 cases of chronic infection, compared with the status quo, at a cost of $2,874 per case.” In other words, “depending on the form of subsequent treatment, the screening would prevent between 82,300 and 121,000 deaths, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio per quality-adjusted life year gained ranged from $15,700 to $35,700,” the study calculated.

        According to HealthDay (2/21, Reinberg), “‘These data underscore the urgent need to address the health threat posed by chronic hepatitis B and C in the United States,’ said investigator Dr. Scott Holmberg, chief of the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch in CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis.”