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Pretreatment assessment and predictors of hepatitis C virus treatment in US veterans coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C virus


Lisa I. Backus, Center for Quality Management in Public Health Veterans Health Administration, 3801 Miranda Avenue,#132, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.


Summary.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cares for many human immunodeficiency virus/hepatitis C virus (HIV/HCV)-coinfected patients. VA treatment recommendations indicate that all HIV/HCV-coinfected patients undergo evaluation for HCV treatment and list pretreatment assessment tests. We compared clinical practice with these recommendations. We identified 377 HIV/HCV-coinfected veterans who began HCV therapy with pegylated interferon and ribavirin and 4135 HIV/HCV-coinfected veterans who did not but were in VA care at the same facilities during the same period. We compared laboratory and clinical characteristics of the two groups and estimated multivariate logistic regression models of receipt of HCV treatment. Overall, patients had high rates of receipt of tests necessary for HCV pretreatment assessment. Patients starting HCV treatment had higher alanine aminotransferase (ALT), lower creatinine, higher CD4 counts and lower HIV viral loads than patients not starting HCV treatment. In the multivariate model, positive predictors of starting HCV treatment included being non-Hispanic whites, having higher ALTs, lower creatinines, higher HCV viral loads, higher CD4 counts, undetectable HIV viral loads and receiving HIV antiretrovirals. A history of chronic mental illness and a history of hard drug use were negative predictors. Most HIV/HCV-coinfected patients received the necessary HCV pretreatment assessments, although rates of screening for hepatitis A and B immunity can be improved. Having well-controlled HIV disease is by far the most important modifiable factor affecting the receipt of HCV treatment. More research is needed to determine if the observed racial differences in starting HCV treatment reflect biological differences, provider behaviour or patient preference.