NRC Comments to the CDC on Hepatitis C Virus Screening

Division of Viral Hepatitis
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, NE., Mailstop G-37
Atlanta, Georgia 30333

June 6, 2012

Docket No. CDC-2012-0005: Recommendations for the Identification of Hepatitis C
Virus (HCV) Chronic Infection

The National Research Center for Women & Families and its Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund support the CDC’s new recommendations on screening Americans born between 1945 and 1965 for infection with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). This one-time screening is necessary to identify and treat HCV early and reduce deaths resulting from chronic infection.

An estimated 2.7-3.9 million Americans live with a hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, 75-85% of whom have a chronic infection that often leads to liver cancer, liver disease, and complications involving other organ systems. Although new treatments for HCV have been proven effective, mortality rates remain high: in the United States, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and HCV-related mortality has surpassed that of HIV. In order for treatment to be most effective, early detection is the key.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 45-85% of infected individuals are unaware they have an HCV infection. In order to reach the most people, especially those at high risk for HCV-related liver disease and cancer, CDC has released new recommendations for HCV testing. An estimated three-fourths of the HCV infections in the U.S. and 73% of HCV-associated mortality are among the “baby boomer” population, according to the CDC. Therefore, CDC now recommends one-time testing of all adults born between 1945 and 1965. Its previous guidelines, released in 1998, were to administer tests to individuals at higher risk for HCV infection, which included: people who have ever injected drugs; have been on chronic hemodialysis; received blood transfusion or organ transplants prior to July 1992; and received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987.

In addition to screening all adults born during the 20-year period specified, the CDC recommends all individuals with HCV infection receive a brief alcohol screening and intervention, as well as referral to care and treatment facilities.

Testing for HCV infection can benefit many individuals by limiting disease progression and providing early access to effective, life-saving treatments. CDC states that anti-viral therapies can clear HCV from the system and stop disease progression for many people living with HCV infection. Tests are reliable and minimally invasive, involving only a simple blood test. Further, testing has been found to be cost effective. CDC’s recommendations can extend lives and improve quality of life for many individuals. For this reason, the National Research Center for Women & Families and its Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund endorse this low-cost intervention which payors and providers should likewise embrace and work to see implemented. This simple, targeted approach will save lives and health care dollars.

For more information, contact Brandel France de Bravo at (202) 223-4000 or bfb@center4research.org

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Draft for Public Comment: Recommendations for the Identification of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Chronic Infection. May 22, 2012.