Health Services Research & Development

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Njei B, Esserman D, Krishnan S, Ohl M, Tate JP, Hauser RG, Taddei T, Lim J, Justice AC. Regional and Rural-Urban Differences in the Use of Direct-acting Antiviral Agents for Hepatitis C Virus: The Veteran Birth Cohort. Medical care. 2019 Apr 1; 57(4):279-285.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Veterans with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection may face geographic obstacles to obtaining treatment. OBJECTIVE: We studied the influence of region and rural versus urban residence on receipt of direct-acting antiretroviral (DAA) medications for HCV. SUBJECTS: Veterans receiving care within Veterans Affairs Healthcare System born between 1945 and 1965. RESEARCH DESIGN: This is a observational study using national electronic health record data. MEASURES: Receipt of DAAs was defined as =1 filled prescription from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2016. Region (South, Northeast, Midwest, and West) and residence (urban, rural-micropolitan, small rural towns, and isolated rural towns) variables were created using residential zone improvement plan codes and rural-urban commuting area (RUCA) codes. Multivariable models were adjusted for age, race, sex, severity of liver disease, comorbidities, and prior treatment experience. RESULTS: Among 166,353 eligible patients 64,854 received, DAAs. Variation by rural-urban residence depended on region. In unadjusted analyses, receipt varied by rural-urban designations within Midwest, and West regions (P<0.05) but did not vary within the South (P=0.12). Southern rural small town had the lowest incidence of DAA receipt (40.1%), whereas the incidence was 52.9% in Midwestern isolated rural towns. In adjusted logistic analyses, compared with southern urban residents (the largest single group), southern rural small town residents had the lowest odds ratio, 0.85 (95% confidence interval, 0.75-0.93), and Midwestern residents from isolated and small rural towns had the highest odds (odds ratio, both 1.27) to receive treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Substantial geographic variation exists in receipt of curative HCV treatment. Efforts are needed to provide more equitable access to DAAs.