Troy Brown, RN
February 07, 2014
The latest treatment recommendations for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are now available on HCVguidelines.org, the result of a collaboration between the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), and the International Antiviral Society-USA.
The evidence-based consensus recommendations for the screening, treatment, and management of patients with HCV were developed by a panel of 27 liver disease and infectious disease specialists and a patient advocate.
Between 3 and 4 million Americans have HCV that may progress to advanced liver disease and/or hepatocellular cancer, according to information on the Web site.
Because of recent changes in HCV testing guidelines, increasing numbers of patients are being diagnosed with HCV who were unaware they have the disease, Adrian Di Bisceglie, MD, president of AASLD, explained in a joint statement from the AASLD and the IDSA. "The guidance provided through HCVguidelines.org comes at a critical time as more and more of these patients seek treatment that has the potential to effectively 'cure' them," Dr. Di Bisceglie said.
Rapidly Changing Field
Drug development for HCV is progressing rapidly, with new direct-acting antiviral medications capable of essentially curing HCV.
Eugene Schiff, MD, director, Schiff Center for Liver Disease at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, commented on the development of the Web site in an interview with Medscape Medical News. "The reason [for the development of the Web site] is that the field is moving so rapidly...the [US Food and Drug Administration] is trying to advance some of these [medications] faster than they have traditionally in the past, which is wonderful for the patients," Dr. Schiff said.
"Because of all this, the average clinician can't keep up with it, and they're trying to be more in sync with the advances," he added.
"In just the past 3 months, 2 new medications became available for treating HCV that hold a great deal of promise for patients living with this disease, and more are expected. HCVguidelines.org provides physicians with the latest information and informed guidance on the available treatment options based on a rigorous review of data," Barbara Murray, MD, president of IDSA, explained in the statement.
"[The development of newer drugs is] of historical significance. We are quickly approaching 100% cure rates of this disease with treatment," Dr. Schiff explained.
"The presence of a readily available, frequently updated guidance document is a great service to providers and their patients, who will benefit from modern treatments that result in cure of HCV up to 95% of the time," Michael Saag, MD, a member of the board of directors of the International Antiviral Society-USA and a cochair of the guidance panel, said in the statement.
"The site will be updated regularly to keep pace with improved diagnostic tools and new drug options as they meet [US Food and Drug Administration] approval," according to the statement.
The Web site will include an ongoing summary of recent changes.
Guidance for Insurance Carriers Also
The rapid development of medications has made insurance companies as well as clinicians unsure of the best treatment options, the statement explains.
The newer drugs are expensive, and not all insurance carriers are willing to pay for them. The guidelines may help insurance carriers evaluate the appropriateness of these drugs for patients with HCV. As the drugs become more available to patients, the cost may go down, Dr. Schiff said.
Even though the newer drugs are expensive, they may still be cost-effective if they are curing patients, he added.
Dr. Schiff reports a variety of relationships with pharmaceutical companies, including receipt of consulting fees, membership on scientific advisory boards and the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, and receipt of grants/research support for clinical trials.