While the upfront costs of expanded testing for and treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) would be considerable, the net long-term social value would likely be substantial. Publishing their findings in the American Journal of Managed Care, researchers used mathematical modeling based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and published literature to analyze the costs and benefits of expanding HCV testing and treatment over a two-decade time period.

The research was funded by AbbVie, a major manufacturer of hep C treatments.

The investigators considered three screening scenarios that varied according to the stage of liver disease at which individuals receive hep C treatment and other factors. They estimated a net social value of testing and treatment, which factored in improved life span and quality of life as well as reduced transmission of the virus, subtracting costs associated with screening, treatment and other medical expenses.

Expanding screening provided the largest social value. However, restrictions on the availability of treatment limit the extent of such a benefit. If people diagnosed with hep C were treated when they had fibrosis in the latter two stages of the disease, known as F3 or F4 (F4 means cirrhosis), then expanded testing would generate an estimated $680 million in social value. But if diagnosed individuals were treated regardless of fibrosis stage, $824 billion in social value would be generated.

Expanded treatment policies would generate a cumulative net social value after eight or nine years, while it would take the more limited treatment policies 20 years to achieve the same.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.