Background: Not all patients with histologically mild chronic hepatitis C progress to cirrhosis.
Objective: To compare no antiviral treatment, periodic liver biopsy with subsequent antiviral treatment for moderate hepatitis or cirrhosis, and immediate antiviral therapy.
Design: Cost-effectiveness analysis.
Data Sources: Clinical trial data and published studies.
Target Population: Hepatitis C virus–infected patients with histologically mild hepatitis.
Time Horizon: Lifetime.
Intervention: Immediate combination antiviral treatment or biopsy every 3 years plus combination antiviral therapy for moderate hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Outcome Measures: Life expectancy, quality-adjusted life expectancy, and costs.
Results of Base-Case Analysis: Over 20 years, biopsy every 3 years with treatment of moderate hepatitis would avoid treatment in 50% of the cohort and would result in an 18% likelihood of cirrhosis compared with 16% for immediate treatment and 27% for no antiviral therapy. Immediate antiviral treatment should increase life expectancy by 1.0 quality-adjusted life-year compared with biopsy management. Over an average lifetime, biopsy management would lead to six liver biopsies costing $6200; immediate antiviral treatment would cost $5100 less than biopsy management because of savings related to biopsy and prevention of future hepatitis C–related morbidity. Immediate therapy was cost-effective compared with biopsy management and had a cost-effectiveness ratio of $7000 compared with no antiviral therapy.
Results of Sensitivity Analysis: When age, sex, genotype, and estimates of histologic progression or compliance with follow-up are varied, immediate therapy should result in an increase of at least 0.8 quality-adjusted life-year compared with biopsy management.
Conclusion: For histologically mild chronic hepatitis C, initial combination treatment compared with periodic liver biopsy should reduce the future risk for cirrhosis, prolong life, and be cost-effective.