Delays in fibrosis staging reduce the likelihood of achieving hepatitis C treatment and cure
Background: Updated 2021 hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment guidelines no longer recommend fibrosis staging for treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis; however, numerous US state Medicaid plans continue to restrict initiation of HCV therapy by fibrosis stage. The study objective was to determine whether delays from HCV diagnosis to fibrosis staging impact the likelihood of initiating/completing HCV treatment and achieving sustained virologic response (SVR). Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed among patients diagnosed with chronic HCV by an urban US emergency department who subsequently underwent fibrosis staging. Time elapsed from HCV diagnosis to hepatic fibrosis staging was evaluated on the likelihood of treatment initiation, treatment completion and SVR. Results: Among fibrosis staging modalities, hepatic ultrasounds occurred more quickly following HCV diagnosis (3.5 months, IQR = 12.4 months), compared to FibroSure (8.5 months, IQR = 20.4 months) and FibroScan (9.9 months, IQR = 18.0 months) (p<.001). Each six-month delay in fibrosis staging decreased the likelihood of initiating treatment by 5% (adjusted relative risk (aRR)=0.95; 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.91–0.998; p=.04) and the likelihood of SVR by 7% (aRR = 0.93; 95% CI = 0.87–0.995; p=.04) after adjusting for insurance, race/ethnicity and history of HIV testing. Conclusions: Delays in hepatitis fibrosis staging were significantly associated with decreased likelihood of HCV treatment initiation and SVR.