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Summary

Background

Chronic hepatitis C (HCV) treatment with pegylated-interferon (PEG-IFN)/ribavirin (RBV) is often limited by preexisting medical, psychiatric and psychosocial contraindications. However, limited data exist in general patient populations.

Aim

To evaluate the percentage of HCV-infected patients in the general US population who may have contraindications to PEG-IFN/RBV.

Methods

The General Electric (GE) Centricity dataset was used to screen the US population between 2004 and 2009 for HCV infection and contraindications to PEG-IFN/RBV. HCV diagnosis and contraindications were identified using ICD-9-CM codes or laboratory values. Only patients with an encounter 180 days prior to HCV diagnosis were included. Demographic differences were calculated using Pearson's chi-squared test. Frequencies and percentages for absolute and relative contraindications to PEG-IFN and/or RBV were determined and proportions and rates/1000 person-months were calculated.

Results

A total of 15 561 021 patients were screened, and 45 690 (0.3%) were HCV-positive and were evaluated. Those with contraindications were significantly younger, female, White, not currently married and receiving Medicare or Medicaid coverage (all P < 0.0001). 17.3% had at least one contraindication to PEG-IFN/RBV (5.5 events/1000 person-months); bipolar disorder (6.5%), anaemia (Hgb < 10 g/dL; 5.9%), pregnancy (1.9%) and neutropenia (neutrophils <750 cells/mm3; 1.2%) were most frequently cited.

Conclusions

Approximately, 17% of HCV-infected patients in the general US population had at least one contraindication to PEG-IFN/RBV. Most contraindications were relative and potentially modifiable. Clinical assessment of contraindications as relative and/or modifiable should be considered and used to determine if patients could benefit from current PEG-IFN–containing triple therapy or future PEG-IFN– or RBV-free regimens.