The Department of Veterans Affairs has extended a new hepatitis C treatments to all veterans within its health care system.
Aided by new funds from Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is extending new antiviral treatments to all veterans with hepatitis C treated within its sprawling health care system—regardless of the stage of their illness and whether they contracted these infections during military service.
The move puts the VA at the forefront of combatting the nation’s deadliest infectious disease, which kills more people in the United States than HIV, tuberculosis, pneumoccocal disease, and dozens of other infectious conditions combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The government agency is now beginning hepatitis C antiviral therapy for 1100 patients a week—double the figure from a year ago—and hopes to increase that number to 2000 patients a week by the end of this year, said David Ross, MD, director of the VA’s HIV, hepatitis, and public health pathogens programs. At the same time, the VA is trying to screen all veterans born between 1945 and 1965, who account for more than 75% of hepatitis C infections.
This “enormous effort” has required a redesign of care within the VA, Ross noted. Five medical centers in San Francisco; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Richmond, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; and West Haven, Connecticut, are leading that initiative, disseminating training and expert advice on hepatitis C throughout the VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care system.
The goal is “to eradicate as much of the disease as we can,” said Chester Good, MD, chair of the VA’s medical advisory panel for pharmacy benefits management and an internist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
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