Objectives: To quantify the burden of illness of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and estimate the impact of interferon-free direct-acting antiviral treatment on healthcare costs in Medicaid.
Study design: Observational, retrospective analysis.
Methods: Medicaid claims data from 2012 for nonelderly adult enrollees with chronic HCV in 16 states were used to estimate the burden of HCV in Medicaid. Annual measures of health services utilization and cost for patients with HCV were compared with a control group of patients without HCV exactly matched on a robust set of individual characteristics and stratified according to liver disease severity, Medicaid eligibility group, and plan type. Subsequently, HCV burden-of-illness estimates were used in a separate analysis of Medicaid State Drug Utilization Data on interferon-free drug utilization and expenditures to estimate the annual and cumulative impact of these curative medications on national Medicaid costs from 2013 through 2022.
Results: Annual per-person Medicaid healthcare costs attributed to HCV infection were estimated to range from $10,561 for noncirrhotic disabled adults to $46,263 for nondisabled adults with end-stage liver disease. The costs were due mainly to inpatient hospitalizations and outpatient hospital visits, prescription drug utilization, outpatient physician's office/clinic visits, and laboratory tests. By 2014, the first full year following the approval of interferon-free treatment, an estimated 12,175 adults with HCV were cured in Medicaid nationwide, each avoiding an estimated $15,907 per year in healthcare costs associated with the disease. As more patients in Medicaid are treated and net savings continue to grow year after year-due to recurring avoidance of health services use and declining drug prices-total cumulative treatment costs since 2013 are expected to be fully offset by total cumulative healthcare expenditure reductions by the end of 2019. By 2022, the recurrent annual avoidance of healthcare costs will have delivered an estimated $12 billion in total cumulative savings to Medicaid, net of DAA drug expenditures.
Conclusions: The introduction of interferon-free HCV treatments enables the avoidance of significant healthcare costs previously associated with treating the disease year after year, producing annual cumulative Medicaid savings beginning in 2019. A main finding from this study is that the cost of a complete DAA treatment course, at 2018 estimated net prices, can be expected to be fully offset by healthcare cost savings after only 16 months, on average, on a per-person basis. Given the tremendous value provided by these curative drugs, Medicaid policies aimed toward restricting access to these treatments based on disease severity or other requirements would be shortsighted.