Background & aims: Successful treatment of chronic hepatitis C with oral direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) leads to virological cure, however, the subsequent risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) persists. Our objective was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of biannual surveillance for HCC in patients cured of hepatitis C and the optimal age to stop surveillance.
Methods: We developed a microsimulation model of the natural history of HCC in individuals with hepatitis C and advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis who achieved virological cure with oral DAAs. We used published data on HCC incidence, tumor progression, real-world HCC surveillance adherence, and costs and utilities of different health states. We compared biannual HCC surveillance using ultrasound and alpha-fetoprotein for varying durations of surveillance (from 5 years to lifetime) vs. no surveillance.
Results: In virologically cured patients with cirrhosis, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of biannual surveillance remained below $150,000 per additional quality-adjusted life year (QALY) (range: $79,500-$94,800) when surveillance was stopped at age 70, irrespective of the starting age (40-65). Compared with no surveillance, surveillance detected 130 additional HCCs in 'very early'/early stage and yielded 51 additional QALYs per 1,000 patients with cirrhosis. In virologically cured patients with advanced fibrosis, the ICER of biannual surveillance remained below $150,000/QALY (range: $124,600-$129,800) when surveillance was stopped at age 60, irrespective of the starting age (40-50). Compared with no surveillance, surveillance detected 24 additional HCCs in 'very early'/early stage and yielded 12 additional QALYs per 1,000 patients with advanced fibrosis.
Conclusion: Biannual surveillance for HCC in patients cured of hepatitis C is cost-effective until the age of 70 for patients with cirrhosis, and until the age of 60 for patients with stable advanced fibrosis.
Lay summary: Individuals who are cured of hepatitis C using oral antiviral drugs remain at risk of developing liver cancer. The value of lifelong screening for liver cancer in these individuals is not known. By simulating the life course of hepatitis C cured individuals, we found that ultrasound-based biannual screening for liver cancer is cost-effective up to age 70 in those with cirrhosis and up to age 60 in those with stable advanced fibrosis.
Keywords: Liver cancer; health economics; screening; simulation modeling.
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