New national guidelines issued this week to manage and treat the hepatitis C virus will ensure that infected patients get the best treatment possible, according to a transplant expert at Intermountain Medical Center who served on the panel that created the recommendations.
Michael Charlton, MD, medical director of the Intermountain Medical Center Liver Transplant Program, is one of 27 national experts to serve on the panel, which created the guidelines to ensure that optimal evidence-based protocols are used in the treatment of patients with HCV infection.
The new guidelines and accompanying website (www.HCVguidelines.org) launched on Wednesday and provide guidance for clinicians and patients dealing with hepatitis C infection.
“We have been able to make great strides in the treatment of hepatitis C, and those treatment options continue to improve, with two new therapies approved in the last few months,” said Dr. Charlton, who joined Intermountain Medical Center after directing the Mayo Clinic Hepatology and Liver Transplant Program. “Treating hepatitis C is also complex and expensive, costing over $1,000 per day. Getting the right treatment to the right patient for the right length of time is critical. The guidelines will operate as a living document, and as we continue to study treatment options and best practices, the guidelines will be updated as well, offering patients around the world access to evidence-based treatment for HCV.”
The project was lead by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
Hepatitis C is an infectious virus that primarily affects the liver. Of the estimated 2.7 million to 3.9 million persons chronically infected with HCV in the United States, 45% to 85% are unaware they are infected.
Most people who are infected with HCV have no symptoms, but chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring on the liver, leading to possible liver failure. Hepatitis C infection is the most common reason for patients to need liver transplantation. The virus is spread primarily through blood-to-blood contact and is often associated with intravenous drug use, blood transfusions or poorly sterilized medical equipment.
According to the CDC, there are high rates of Hepatitis C in people born during 1945 and 1965. While the reason is not completely understood, 75% of adults with hepatitis C were born in these years. The recently published guidelines recommend HCV testing at least once for persons born between 1945 and 1965.
“We are excited to be part of the initial creation of these guidelines and will continue to contribute additional information as our research continues,” said Dr. Charlton. “Hepatitis C is usually very treatable, so the sooner we can detect its presence, the less risk of liver failure for the patient.”