SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

The prevalence of chronic hepatitis C infection in U.S. prisons is 12% to 31%. Treatment of this substantial portion of the population has been subject to much controversy, both medically and legally. Studies have demonstrated that treatment of chronic hepatitis C with pegylated interferon (PEG IFN) and ribavirin is a cost-effective measure in the general population; however, no study has addressed whether the same is true of the prison population. The aim of this study was to determine the cost-effectiveness of hepatitis C treatment with PEG IFN and ribavirin in the U.S. prison population. Cost-effectiveness was determined via a decision analysis model employing Markov simulation. The cohort of prisoners had a distribution of genotypes and stages of fibrosis in accordance with prior studies evaluating inmate populations. The probability of transitioning from one health state to another, reinfection rates, in-prison and out-of-prison mortality rates, sustained viral response rates, costs, and quality of life weights were also obtained from the literature. Sensitivity analysis was performed. In a strategy without a pretreatment liver biopsy, treatment was cost-effective for all ages and genotypes. This model was robust to rates of disease progression, mortality rates, reinfection rates, sustained viral response rates, and costs. In a strategy employing a pretreatment liver biopsy, treatment was also cost-saving for prisoners of all ages and genotypes with portal fibrosis, bridging fibrosis, or compensated cirrhosis. Treatment was not cost-effective in patients between the ages of 40 and 49 with no fibrosis and genotype 1. Conclusion: Treatment of chronic hepatitis C with PEG IFN and ribavirin in U.S. prisons results in both improved quality of life and savings in cost for almost all segments of the inmate population. If the decision to treat hepatitis C is based on pharmaco-economic measures, this significant proportion of infected individuals should not be denied access to therapy. (HEPATOLOGY 2008.)