Treating hepatitis C virus (HCV) among those with genotypes 2 through 5 of the virus is largely cost-effective given current drug pricing and could even save money if such medications are heavily discounted.

Publishing their findings in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, researchers conducted a systematic search of electronic databases for published studies that provided cost-effectiveness estimates for the treatment of genotypes 2 through 6 of hep C with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs).

When researchers conduct cost-effectiveness estimates related to a medical intervention, they look for the associated cost to yield one additional quality-adjusted life year (QALY). One year of life lived in perfect health is equivalent to 1.0 QALY, while that figure drops below 1.0 proportional to the lack of perfect health. Additional QALYs resulting from a treatment may be a function of improved health, increased longevity or a composite of the two.

The technical term for the cost for one additional QALY is an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER). In the United States, if an intervention has an associated ICER of less than $100,000, it is typically considered cost-effective.

Drawing from 10 published studies, the new paper’s authors culled together 92 ICER estimates for seven different hep C regimens. Twenty of the ICERs were for treating genotype 2, 40 were for genotype 3, 30 were for genotype 4, two were for genotype 5 and none were for genotype 6, so that rare genotype was left out of the analysis.

If hep C treatment were to cost $40,000, 87 percent of the analyses found that DAAs were cost-effective and 7.6 percent found the regimens saved money. The median threshold cost for HCV treatment below which DAAs would be cost-effective was between $144,400 and $225,000. The related cost-saving threshold was between $17,300 and $25,400. Hep C treatment typically costs considerably less than $100,000 in the United States.

“Timely HCV treatment would be an optimal strategy from both a public health and economic perspective,” the study authors concluded.

To read the study abstract, click here.