Anti-viral therapy administered after diagnosis increases life expectancy and is less costly overall than using biopsies to decide when to give treatment, according to the economic analysis.
The conclusion comes from a theoretical model of disease progression created by studying the results of major clinical trials.
The researchers, from the International Hepatitis Interventional Therapy Group, assumed 50% of patients would not need treatment over a 20 year period if the progress of infection was monitored by biopsy - roughly halving the cost of therapy.
Their research compared the costs and benefits of monitoring patients by biopsy with the effects of giving all infected patients early therapy with ribavirin and Interferon.
They found that immediate therapy reduced the chances of a patient developing cirrhosis from 18% to 16% and increased life expectancy by the equivalent of one year of life of full quality.
Although a course of anti-viral treatment was expensive - amounting to US$7 000 over a lifetime - this was outweighed by the costs of performing up to six biopsies over a life-time. This course of action was, on average, $5-100 more expensive than immediate treatment.
The researchers, Dr John Wong of New England Medical Center, Massachusetts, US, and Dr Raymond Koff of the University of Massachusetts, US, write: "Our analysis emphasizes the need to find an inexpensive non-invasive method to assess the extent of liver fibrosis and to identify patients who are likely to experience progressive liver disease."
Report Copyright: Englemed Health News at http://www.internationalmedicalnews.com