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Eliminating Screening Barriers for HCV

Eliminating Screening Barriers for HCV

Approximately 3.9 million Americans are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), making it the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States, according to the CDC. If left untreated, HCV can result in serious organ damage to the liver and kidneys as well as premature death. On average, HCV patients die 20 years earlier than those without the infection. Research shows that HCV symptoms often do not manifest for decades and patient awareness of their infection status is low. Despite recent advances in therapeutics, diagnostic assessments, technology and public health policy for HCV, research suggests that a substantial number of people remain undiagnosed and untreated. Facilitating access to new therapies is paramount to making progress in the fight against HCV. Many stakeholders are working to develop solutions to address the cost of direct-acting antiviral agents, but access to therapy is just one of the barriers to reducing disease incidence. One of the most important barriers in care involves the quality of screening and diagnosis. Published guidelines from the CDC and United States Task Force for Preventive Services have helped guide clinicians on who should be screened, including baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, and how to screen them. Unfortunately, screening often involves a two-step approach to testing. When patients receive a positive antibody screen, they may need to return for a subsequent doctor’s visit and blood draw to produce a specimen on which to perform a molecular test to confirm active infection. Studies indicate that as many as 60% of patients who receive a positive antibody screening test for hepatitis C in the U.S. do...
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