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Barriers to hepatitis C treatment in the era of direct-acting anti-viral agents.

Lin M, Kramer J, White D, Cao Y, Tavakoli-Tabasi S, Madu S, Smith D, Asch SM, El-Serag HB, Kanwal F. Barriers to hepatitis C treatment in the era of direct-acting anti-viral agents. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2017 Nov 1; 46(10):992-1000.

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BACKGROUND: Direct-acting anti-virals (DAA) are safe, effective treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV). Suboptimal linkage to specialists and access to DAAs are the leading barriers to treatment; however, data are limited. AIM: To determine predictors of follow-up, receipt of DAAs, and reasons for the lack thereof. METHODS: We used clinical data from retrospective cohort of HCV-infected patients with previously established HCV care in the US Department of Veterans Affairs to examine predictors of follow-up in HCV clinics and DAA treatment (during 12/1/2013-4/30/2015). We then conducted a structured review of medical charts of HCV patients to determine reasons for lack of follow-up and treatment. RESULTS: We identified 84 221 veterans who were previously seen in HCV clinics during the pre-DAA era. Of these, 47 165 (56.0%) followed-up in HCV specialty clinics, 13 532 (28.7%) of whom received DAAs. Older age, prior treatment, presence of cirrhosis or HCC, HIV/HBV co-infection and psychiatric illness were predictors of follow-up. Alcohol/drug abuse and medical co-morbidity were predictors of lack of treatment. Of the 905 prospectively recruited patients, 56.2% patients had a specialist visit and 28% received DAAs. Common reasons for lack of follow-up were relocation (n = 148, 37.4%) and missed/cancelled appointments (n = 63, 15.9%). Reasons for lack of treatment included waiting for newer therapy (n = 99, 38.8%), co-morbidities (n = 66, 25.9%) and alcohol/drug abuse (n = 63, 24.7%). CONCLUSIONS: Half of patients with established HCV care were followed-up in the DAA era and only 29% received DAAs. Targeted efforts focusing on patient and system-levels may improve the reach of treatment with the new DAAs.

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