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Eur J Public Health. 2009 Jun;19(3):245-53. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckp001. Epub 2009 Feb 5.

Long-term effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of screening for hepatitis C virus infection.

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Department of Public Health, Information Systems and Health Technology Assessment, UMIT-University of Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology, Hall i.T., Austria.



Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is an emerging problem in public health. In most countries, the majority of HCV infected people are yet undiagnosed. Early detection and treatment may result in better health outcomes and save costs by preventing future advanced liver disease. The evidence for long-term effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of HCV screening was systematically reviewed.


We performed a systematic literature search on long-term health-economic effects of HCV screening and included Health Technology Assessment (HTA) reports, systematic reviews, long-term clinical trials, full health economic and decision-analytic modelling studies with a sufficiently long time horizon and patient-relevant long-term outcomes such as life-years gained (LYG) or quality-adjusted life years (QALY) gained. Economic results were converted to 2005 Euros.


Seven studies were included. Target population, HCV prevalence, study perspective, discount rate, screening and antiviral treatment mode varied. The incremental effectiveness of HCV screening and early treatment compared to no screening and standard care varied from 0.0004 to 0.066 LYG, and from 0.0001 to 0.072 QALY. Incremental cost-effectiveness and cost-utility ratios of HCV screening vs. no screening were 3900-243,700 euro/LYG and 18,300-1,151,000 euro/QALY. HCV screening seems to be cost-effective in populations with high HCV prevalence, but not in low HCV prevalence populations.


HCV screening and early treatment have the potential to improve average life-expectancy, but should focus on populations with elevated HCV prevalence to be cost-effective. Further research on the long-term health-economic impact of HCV screening when combined with appropriate monitoring strategies in different European health care systems is needed.

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