Up-to-date guidance for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is now available for healthcare providers from HCVguidelines.org, a new online resource launched this week by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), in collaboration with the International Antiviral Society-USA (IAS-USA). These guidelines are important tools in our shared national efforts to achieve the goals of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, particularly its priorities of educating providers and improving testing, care, and treatment of viral hepatitis.
The HCV treatment arena is evolving quite rapidly with a number of new medications having been approved by the FDA in recent years (see related posts here and here) and more in development. Not only have these new treatments demonstrated improved cure rates, they are also better tolerated by patients and in many instances require a shorter period of treatment. This will likely result in increases in the number of people living with previously diagnosed HCV infections – including those for whom prior treatments were not successful – who are motivated to seek these new, improved treatments. The developers of these guidelines note the rapid pace of drug development has left many medical providers – as well as insurance companies – unsure what the optimal treatments are. The guidance provided through HCVguidelines.org will assist clinicians in delivering the most up-to-date care for their patients living with chronic HCV infection.
At the same time, a growing number of persons with HCV will learn they have been living with undiagnosed infection as healthcare providers screen more patients for HCV as called for in the aligned CDC and USPSTF HCV testing guidelines. Currently, the CDC estimates that upwards of 70 percent of those infected with HCV have not been diagnosed. These newly diagnosed patients will seek treatment, precipitating the need for a greater number and variety of healthcare providers to be knowledgeable about how to treat HCV infection. Indeed, in announcing HCVguidelines.org, AASLD’s President, Adrian Di Bisceglie, MD, FACP, observed, “Recent changes in HCV testing guidelines have led to the diagnosis of increasing numbers of patients who were previously unaware of their infection. The guidance provided through HCVguidelines.org comes at a critical time as more and more of these patients seek treatment that has the potential to effectively ‘cure’ them.”
The new HCV treatment guidelines are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the two medical professional societies (AASLD and IDSA) and IAS-USA. A panel of 27 liver disease and infectious diseases specialists and a patient advocate developed evidenced-based, consensus recommendations for the screening, treatment and management of patients with HCV. The online expert advice for clinicians addresses HCV treatment in a variety of circumstances, including individuals who are being treated for the first time and those for whom previous HCV treatment was not successful . The site also includes guidelines for HCV treatment for several special classes of patients such as those who are co-infected with HIV and those who’ve had liver transplants. In their press release, the developers indicate that the site will be updated regularly so as to keep pace with new clinical research findings as well as improved diagnostic tools and new drug options, once approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“The HCV treatment landscape is being revolutionized with new treatments and many more in the pipeline, yet to come, making it possible to cure significant numbers of people living with chronic hepatitis C,” observed Ms. Corinna Dan, Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor at the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy. “The information on HCVguidelines.org will help ensure that healthcare providers can keep pace with the rapidly advancing science and provide the best, most up-to-date treatments for their patients.”
Continued efforts to screen more individuals for HCV as currently recommended and more widespread use of these new, evidence-based HCV treatment guidelines by a variety of healthcare providers will aid in identifying and connecting a greater proportion of the more than 3 million Americans living with chronic HCV infection to modern curative treatments, thereby preventing the avoidable progression to more serious liver disease, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.