BMJ physicians urge reexamination of widespread hep C screening
- A group of physicians writing for the British Medical Journal are worried that expanding hep C testing to low-risk individuals could lead to unnecessary, and even harmful, treatment.
- Based on guidelines published by the CDC in 2012, people born between 1945 and 1965 ('baby boomers'), as well as IV drug users and people who received blood transfusions before 1992 should be tested.
- According to Dr. Kenneth Lin, one of the contributors to the BMJ article, only about 20% of people with hep C come down with fatal symptoms and not everyone with hep C needs to be or should be treated.
For a long time, over-treatment for hep C was not a problem because of the complexity of treatment regimens that took a year, were painful and inconvenient, had severe side effects and only a 50% cure rate. However, that all changed with the advent of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), Gilead's once-a-day pill with high cure rates---and an $84,000 price tag for a 12-week treatment. Still the prospect of an easy cure and the fear of liver cancer and hep C-related death has pushed many people with hep C to seek treatment, even when it may not be necessary. Now, some physicians are pushing for a more balanced approach---and payers may very well follow their lead.