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US Preventive Services Task Force
Evidence Report
March 2, 2020

Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Adolescents and Adults: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

Author Affiliations
  • 1Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center, Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 2Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 3School of Public Health, Oregon Health & Science University–Portland State University, Portland
  • 4Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
JAMA. 2020;323(10):976-991. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.20788

Importance  A 2013 review for the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening found interferon-based antiviral therapy associated with increased likelihood of sustained virologic response (SVR) and an association between achieving an SVR and improved clinical outcomes. New direct-acting antiviral (DAA) regimens are available.

Objective  To update the 2013 review on HCV screening to inform the USPSTF.

Data Sources  Ovid MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews through February 2019, with surveillance through September 2019.

Study Selection  Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and nonrandomized treatment studies of HCV screening and DAA therapy; cohort studies on screening, antiviral therapy, and the association between an SVR after antiviral therapy and clinical outcomes.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  One investigator abstracted data; a second checked accuracy. Two investigators independently rated study quality.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Mortality, morbidity, quality of life, screening and treatment harms, and screening diagnostic yield.

Results  Eight RCTs of DAA therapy vs placebo or an outdated antiviral regimen, 48 other treatment studies, and 33 cohort studies, with a total of 179 230 participants, were included. No study evaluated effects of HCV screening vs no screening. One new study since the 2013 review (n = 5917) found similar diagnostic yield of risk-based screening (sensitivity, 82%; number needed to screen to identify 1 HCV case, 15) and birth cohort screening (sensitivity, 76%; number needed to screen, 29), assuming perfect implementation. Ten open-label studies (n = 3292) reported small improvements in some quality-of-life and functional outcomes (eg, less than 3 points on the 0 to 100 36-Item Short Form Health Survey physical and mental component summary scales) after DAA treatment compared with before treatment. Two cohort studies (n = 24 686) found inconsistent associations of antiviral therapy vs no therapy with risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Forty-nine treatment studies (n = 10 181) found DAA regimens associated with pooled SVR rates greater than 95% across genotypes, and low short-term rates of serious adverse events (1.9%) and withdrawal due to adverse events (0.4%). An SVR after antiviral therapy was associated with decreased adjusted risk of all-cause mortality (13 studies, n = 36 986; pooled hazard ratio [HR], 0.40 [95% CI, 0.28-0.56) and hepatocellular carcinoma (20 studies, n = 84 491; pooled HR, 0.29 [95% CI, 0.23 to 0.38]) vs no SVR.

Conclusions and Relevance  Direct evidence on the effects of HCV screening on clinical outcomes remains unavailable, but DAA regimens were associated with SVR rates greater than 95% and few short-term harms relative to older antiviral therapies. An SVR after antiviral therapy was associated with improved clinical outcomes compared with no SVR.