Following the announcement of the first ever National Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is proposing that all US baby boomers get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus. Testing in this population is critical in early detection and treatment of the disease, which can induce hepatic failure as well as cancer if the infection is allowed to progress without medical intervention.
According to the CDC, one in every 30 baby boomers (patients born between 1945–1965) has been infected with the virus and is not aware of it because hepatitis C can damage the liver for many years with few noticeable symptoms. Current CDC guidelines call for testing only individuals with certain known risk factors for hepatitis C infection. But studies find that many baby boomers do not perceive themselves to be at risk and are not being tested.
Recent pharmaceutical advancements have allowed for more successful treatment rates than previous years. Two drugs, Incivek (telapravir tablets; Vertex Pharmaceuticals) and Victrelis (boceprevir capsules; Merck) have been approved within the past year for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. The current standard of therapy is combination therapy consisting of either Copegus (ribavirin tablets; Roche) with Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a injection; Roche) or Rebetol (ribavirin capsules; Merck) with Intron A (peginterferon alfa-2b injection; Merck). Treatment success rates are now being improved with the addition of polymerase and protease inhibitors to standard pegylated interferon/ribavirin combination therapy.
The CDC’s draft of recommendations will be made available for public comment from May 22nd– June 8th.
For more information call (800) 232-4636 or visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.