Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection affects approximately 3 million people in the United States and places tremendous demands on the health care system.
As many observers have predicted, the disease burden continues to grow as the infected population ages.
Dr Kevin Schulman and colleagues analyzed inpatient data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.
The investigators also assessed outpatient data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, and drug data from the Verispan Source Prescription Audit.
The investigators examined recent growth in the use of health care resources among Hepatitis C patients by age group.
| There is an average annual increases of 25% to 30% for hospitalizations and charges
The team found average annual increases of 25% to 30% for hospitalizations, charges, hospital days, and physician visits.
Corresponding time-trend coefficients were positive.
From 1994 to 2001, the team noted the Hepatitis C burden increase among patients aged 40 to 60 years, reflecting the natural history of disease progression.
In sensitivity analysis, Hepatitis C outcome growth rates remained significant, unless more than 3 out of 4 cases were initially underreported.
Also, patients co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C in 2001 constituted about 8 times as many hospitalizations.
The investigators observed that co-infection during 2001 incurred 3 times the charges in 1994, relative to all HIV hospitalizations and charges.
Dr Schulman's team concludes, “Our findings highlight the urgency concerning Hepatitis C outcomes.”
“As patients continue to age and disease burden progresses, suboptimal decisions regarding Hepatitis C treatments will bring increasing opportunity costs for the health care system and society.”