Background: Because most hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections are asymptomatic and often unrecognized, screening for hepatitis C has been proposed as a plausible public health strategy. We examined the health and economic consequences of a selective one-time hepatitis C screening program for specific populations in the context of current treatment patterns.
Methods: We used a state-transition model to evaluate 2 general strategies: no screening, and screen and treat with direct-acting antiviral agents. We examined these strategies for 4 different target populations (scenarios): 1) asymptomatic people not at high risk for HCV infection, 2) immigrant populations with high prevalence, 3) a birth cohort of people aged 25-64 years and 4) a birth cohort of people aged 45-64 years of age. We obtained model data from the published literature and expert opinions. We used a payer perspective, a lifetime time horizon and a 5% discount rate.
Results: Screening would prevent 49.7%, 57.4%, 64.1% and 49.6% of HCV-related deaths over the lifetime of the cohort for scenarios 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively. Screening would produce incremental-cost-effectiveness ratios between $31 468/quality-adjusted life-year and $50 490/quality-adjusted life-year. Probabilistic sensitivity analyses indicated that the chance that screening would be cost-effective at $50 000 willingness-to-pay threshold was 39.5%, 63.2%, 58.4% and 58.1% for scenarios 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively.
Interpretation: Our analyses suggest that a one-time hepatitis C screening and treatment program in Canada is likely to be cost-effective for scenarios 2, 3 and 4. The screening programs we have evaluated would identify asymptomatic people with chronic HCV infection and would enable medical treatment to be offered if needed before the development of advanced liver disease.
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