Chronic Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects about 3 million people in the United States. Many patients contracted the disease in the 1970s before testing and safe needle-sharing practices were widespread. As this population ages, experts have predicted an increasing impact on the healthcare system.
To understand how HCV outcomes are evolving, researchers, led by William C. Grant, Ph.D. of Duke University, analyzed hospitalizations, outpatient trends, and prescription drug data. They examined hospitalization trends for HCV-related and liver-related admissions from 1994 through 2001 using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. They tracked HCV-related physicians' visits from 1996 to 2002. They also gathered data on spending for interferon-ribavirin combination therapy between 1998 and 2000 from the Verispan Source Prescription Audit.
The researchers determined that HCV-related hospitalizations, hospital days, total charges, and deaths increased by more than 20 percent per year, three times higher than for all-cause hospitalizations. "The growth patterns were most striking for patients in their forties and fifties," the authors report. Patients in this age group spent more time in the hospital, incurred greater costs, and died more frequently than patients in other age groups. Physician office visits by HCV patients also increased by 36 percent each year. And spending on HCV drug therapy rose dramatically between 1998 and 2000, from $78 per $
Contact: David Greenberg
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