Veterans Administration, Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven.
Guidelines for hepatitis C (HCV) strongly recommend antiviral treatment for patients with more severe liver disease given their increased risk of developing cirrhosis and other liver-related complications. Despite the proven benefits of therapy, 70%-88% of patients chronically infected with HCV do not undergo treatment. The goal of this paper is to describe patterns of treatment initiation among patients with both mild and severe disease and to assess the factors that are associated with treatment initiation and completion.
Subjects completed previously validated questionnaires to ascertain sociodemographic characteristics, choice predisposition, and clinical characteristics prior to meeting with the hepatologist to discuss treatment initiation and were followed for 12 months. We examined the association between patient characteristics and treatment patterns controlling for liver disease severity.
Of the 148 eligible subjects entered into our study, 55 (37%) initiated treatment during the 12-month follow-up period. Of the 86 subjects with severe liver disease, 43 (50%) initiated treatment. Financial barriers and geographic access to care were the most common reasons for treatment deferral. Of the 55 patients initiating treatment, 24 (44%) discontinued treatment, with intolerance of side effects being the most common reason for discontinuation. After adjusting for liver disease severity, patient choice predisposition (prior to discussion with their provider) was strongly associated with initiation of treatment, while sociodemographic characteristics were not.
Treatment initiation did align with current recommendations (patients with severe disease were more likely to initiate treatment), however, rates of treatment initiation and completion were low. Patient choice predisposition is the strongest predictor of treatment initiation, independent of disease severity. Improving individualized treatment outcomes for patients with chronic HCV requires efforts at identifying patients' choice predisposition, and improving access for those wishing to initiate therapy.