Detroit—Chronic hepatitis C patients treated with DAA medicines have greatly reduced the use of the healthcare system, according to a new study.

Those patients are much less likely to be hospitalized or seek emergency care for both liver- and nonliver-related health issues, according to Henry Ford Health System researchers.

According to the study, published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, antivirals have been shown to cure hepatitis C in 98% of patients who take them. A cure is defined when the virus is no longer detectable in the patient's blood.

"The findings of our study show that curing hepatitis C not only gets rid of the virus; it also improves the overall health of patients," stated lead author Stuart Gordon, MD, director of the Division of Hepatology at Henry Ford. "This is consistent with our earlier studies that showed effective treatment of hepatitis C also reduces the risk of patients developing other health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, stroke and heart attacks."

The researchers compared rates of emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations between HCV patients who achieved sustained virological response after DAA therapy (cases) to matched controls.

The results indicated that—among 3,049 pairs—cases demonstrated lower rates of liver-related ED visits (P = .01) than controls; all-cause and liver-related hospitalization rates and hospitalized days were also lower in cases (P <.0001).

The authors tout their observational study as the first to examine healthcare utilization involving hepatitis C patients with and without advanced liver disease and treated with the DAAs. The antivirals are taken orally once daily for 8 to 12 weeks.

Key findings of the study include:

• Patients treated with DAAs had lower rates of hospitalization and shorter stays for liver- and nonliver-related health issues compared with those who did not receive DAAs.

• Patients treated with DAAs had fewer visits to the ED for liver disease–related issues compared with those who did not receive DAAs.

The researchers did not quantify the potential cost savings as part of the study, although Dr. Gordon suggested the projected cost savings would be substantial.

"There are tangible downstream benefits from these antiviral treatments," he stated. "If you're cured of the virus, your overall health will get better and you're less likely to be hospitalized for some other health condition."

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