Cost-effectiveness of screening patients for hepatitis C

Am J Med. 1999 Dec 27;107(6B):36S-40S. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(99)00379-4.


This review discusses the benefits and drawbacks of public health screening for hepatitis C, its cost effectiveness, and the various strategies to identify individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Of the estimated 4 million people infected with hepatitis C in the United States, approximately 50% are unaware of their infection. Both the high incidence and recent improvements in the treatment of hepatitis C make it likely that a screening program for this disease would be beneficial to patients, their families, and to the public. Testing for anti-HCV antibody is now widely available, automated, sensitive (>95%), and relatively inexpensive (approximately $80 per test). Interferons and the introduction of ribavirin into the treatment armamentarium have improved the effectiveness of therapy. Lifestyle modifications can be made to decrease the risk of transmission, and patients can be counseled to avoid alcohol consumption and receive hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations, if appropriate. An additional benefit of early detection is that family members can be alerted to the risk factors for hepatitis C. Such education increases overall public awareness of the disease and may improve prevention efforts. Several national agencies within the United States and in Europe have issued guidelines for hepatitis C screening. Each of these calls for screening of high-risk populations, which include individuals who have received blood products and intravenous drug users. Targeted screening and improved treatment outcomes will likely show identification of those with hepatitis C to be cost effective in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / economics*
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / analysis
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Hepatitis C Antibodies