July 26, 2013

Provided by Infection Control Today

Recognizing the rapid development of hepatitis C medications coupled with increasing numbers of people being identified with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) are collaborating to develop clinical recommendations for the management of hepatitis C. 

New medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration in recent  years have increased HCV cure rates, and several additional medications are expected to be approved  in the next three to five years. At the same time, new HCV testing guidelines are expected to increase the number of patients diagnosed with hepatitis C, many of whom currently are HCV-infected but unaware of their status. Ensuring that patients receive the new, effective treatment will be critical in increasing cure rates for hepatitis C.

“We can finally say that cure of HCV infection has become a real possibility for the majority of individuals infected with this deadly virus,” says Gary Davis, MD, of AASLD.
“Members of AASLD and IDSA are committed to ensuring that patient care keeps pace with rapidly advancing science,” said David Relman, MD, president of IDSA. “This effort is an important step toward advancing that goal and comes at an important time as we all work to raise awareness of hepatitis virus infections on World Hepatitis Day on July 28.”

Through this collaboration, the societies will review current treatment recommendations and use evidence-based, consensus guidance to develop updated recommendations for managing patients. Recommendations will be updated regularly and made available online. “A web-based system of new recommendations coupled with a published annual update will afford the greatest opportunity for both rapid and comprehensive output,” says Donald M. Jensen, MD, of AASLD.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease resulting from chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).  It is estimated that between 3 million and 4 million Americans are infected with HCV and have chronic liver disease as a result. Because symptoms of HCV infection may not appear for many years, more than 70 percent are unaware they are infected.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended an age-based screening strategy consisting of a one-time test for HCV for those at highest risk, including everyone born between 1945 and 1965. This recommendation was endorsed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in June 2013. The broader testing recommendations likely will detect a substantial number of people who are unaware they are infected.

According to a July 10, 2013 article published in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA), deaths from liver disease increased from 1990 to 2010. HCV is the most likely cause of the emergence of liver disease as a growing threat to Americans. Early testing enables people who are infected to receive treatment as soon as possible, and prevent progression to more serious disease, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Currently available drugs and the next generation of direct-acting antivirals that will likely be available later this year offer the potential to treat and cure most patients with HCV infection. Therefore, up-to-date recommendations for the medical management of these patients and their treatment are critically important.

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