Cost-effectiveness of universal screening for chronic hepatitis B virus infection in China: an economic evaluation

Lancet Glob Health. 2022 Feb;10(2):e278-e287. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00517-9.


Background: China has the highest prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection worldwide. Universal HBV screening might enable China to reach the WHO 2030 target of 90% diagnostics, 80% treatment, and 65% HBV-related death reduction, and eventually elimination of viral hepatitis. We evaluated the cost-effectiveness of implementing universal HBV screening in China and identified optimal screening strategies.

Methods: We used a Markov cohort model, inputting parameters based on data from previous studies and public databases, to assess the cost-effectiveness of four HBV serological screening strategies in China in different screening scenarios. We simulated universal screening scenarios in 15 adult age groups between 18 and 70 years, with different years of screening implementation (2021, 2026, and 2031) and compared to the status quo (ie, no universal screening); in total, we investigated 180 different screening scenarios. We calculated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) between the different screening strategies and the status quo (current screening strategy). We performed probabilistic and one-way deterministic sensitivity analyses to assess the robustness of our findings.

Findings: With a willingness-to-pay level of three times the Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (US$30 828), all universal screening scenarios in 2021 were cost-effective compared with the status quo. The serum HBsAg/HBsAb/HBeAg/HBeAb/HBcAb (five-test) screening strategy in people aged 18-70 years was the most cost-effective strategy in 2021 (ICER $18 295/quality-adjusted life-years [QALY] gained). This strategy remained the most cost-effective, when the willingness-to-pay threshold was reduced to 2 times GDP per capita. The two-test strategy for people aged 18-70 years became more cost-effective at lower willingness-to-pay levels. The five-test strategy could prevent 3·46 million liver-related deaths in China over the lifetime of the cohort. It remained the most cost-effective strategy when implementation was delayed until 2026 (ICER $20 183/QALY) and 2031 (ICER $23 123/QALY). Screening young people (18-30 years) will no longer be cost-effective in delayed scenarios.

Interpretation: The five-test universal screening strategy in people aged 18-70 years, implemented within the next 10 years, is the optimal HBV screening strategy for China. Other screening strategies could be cost-effective alternatives, if budget is limited in rural areas. Delaying strategy implementation reduces overall cost-effectiveness. Early screening initiation will aid global efforts in achieving viral hepatitis elimination.

Funding: National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic
  • Young Adult