Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Technology Assessment, Boston, MA.
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
Liver Center and Gastrointestinal Division, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.
It is not standard practice to treat patients with acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, as the incidence of HCV in the United States continues to rise, it may be time to re-evaluate acute HCV management in the era of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs). In this study a microsimulation model was developed to analyze the tradeoffs between initiating HCV therapy in the acute versus chronic phase of infection. By simulating the lifetime clinical course of patients with acute HCV infection, we were able to project long-term outcomes such as quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and costs. We found that treating acute HCV versus deferring treatment until the chronic phase increased QALYs by 0.02 and increased costs by $483 in patients not at risk of transmitting HCV. The resulting incremental cost effectiveness ratio (ICER) was $19,991 per QALY, demonstrating that treatment of acute HCV was cost-effective using a willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000 per QALY. In patients at risk of transmitting HCV, treating acute HCV became cost-saving, increasing QALYs by 0.03 and decreasing costs by $3655.
Immediate treatment of acute HCV with DAAs can improve clinical outcomes and be highly cost-effective or cost-saving compared with deferring treatment until the chronic phase of infection. If future studies continue to demonstrate effective HCV cure with shorter 6 week treatment duration, then it may be time to revisit current HCV guidelines to incorporate recommendations that account for the clinical and economic benefits of treating acute HCV in the era of DAAs.