Be sure to check out, “Boomers a Prime Group to be Tested for Hepatitis C”, an article regarding the importance of Hepatitis C screening in the baby boomer population, which features EPGI physician, Adam Peyton, DO. The article was recently featured on LVB.com.
Boomers a prime group to be tested for hepatitis C
By MELINDA RIZZO, March 28, 2016 at 9:00 AM
While a simple blood test may be the easiest way to check for infections, many baby boomers miss an opportunity for early intervention for a potentially debilitating liver disease.
It’s because they don’t understand the need for it.
Among the fastest-growing segment of patients with positive hepatitis C diagnoses, baby boomers – or those born between 1946 and 1964 – are more likely to dismiss the need for blood work to discover if they are infected, which makes these adults less likely to ask for the test.
“Nationally, about 1.5 percent of people have hepatitis C, but those who were born between 1945 and 1965 have a double prevalence of about 3 percent. Baby boomers represent the largest subset of patients,” said Dr. Adam Peyton. Peyton is a gastroenterologist with Eastern Pennsylvania Gastroenterology and Liver Specialists PC, in Salisbury Township.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus or infection that affects the liver and its ability to function. Those infected may not have symptoms during the early stages, and therefore may not realize they have been exposed and might need treatment, he said. Long term, untreated infections can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis and death, Peyton said.
Missed work time, sky-high health care costs, a diminished quality of life and playing Russian roulette with vital organ functioning are the probable results of eschewing an early diagnosis of hepatitis.
For many who rallied to Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ battle cry of “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” a hepatitis C diagnosis can be a disturbing reminder of how long ago or forgotten behaviors can cause significant consequences, even death.
Another troubling and rising demographic for hepatitis C is that of people who are 30 and younger. And that is cause for alarm, said Dr. Noel Martins, a physician with St. Luke’s Gastroenterology Specialists in Allentown.
“Overall, the number of new [hepatitis C cases] has been decreasing,” he said. “However, there has been a significant increase in hepatitis C infections among young people … that seems to correlate with increasing injection heroin use in this age group.”
But it isn’t just IV drug users at risk.
“People don’t know or understand that intranasal drug use, such as [snorting] cocaine, can also cause hepatitis C,” Peyton said.
New drug-treatments are highly effective but extremely expensive, often costing $80,000 to $90,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, Martins said.
“Some of these regimens cost more than $1,000 per pill,” Martins said.
Insurance may or may not offset some of the cost.
Cure outcomes from the newer, albeit costly, treatments, are dramatic.
Specialists are not eligible to order the tests, which must come from a patient’s primary care physician, some of whom may be resistant to order them.
That was Linda Ungvarsky’s experience before she insisted on getting tested.
“It was an ordeal to get the diagnosis, and I had to challenge my doctor for the blood test,” said Ungvarsky of Pittston. “She was surprised at my results.
“Before I started treatment, I had to fight my way through the day and missed work,” Ungvarsky said.
She is more than halfway through a 12-week treatment course and doing well, she said. Her medication is made available through Support Pathways of California. She said she has not missed any work, and takes one pill a day.
Peyton said a simple, one-time blood test can confirm or rule out hepatitis C and is available to those born between 1945 and 1965.
“Everyone in this age group should be getting tested,” he said.
James R. Kline, PA-C a physician assistant with Reading Health System’s Digestive Disease Associates Ltd. in Wyomissing, said higher health care costs are a result of more patients developing complications, including cirrhosis and hepatic cancers.
“Patients can be cured with early treatment,” he said. “Delay in treatment results in disease progression and often higher costs of care.”
Kline said as new medications enter the market, competition among pharmaceutical companies lowers treatment costs.
Reading Health System offers a liver elastography test to provide noninvasive diagnosis and justification for insurance coverage for medication, Kline said.
Liver elastography, a test using an external ultrasound device, is an alternative to liver biopsy.
Because treatment and cure rates are high, early diagnosis and treatment mitigate disease progression, escalating health care costs and impact to home and work-life productivity, Kline said.
“People don’t understand, it is the first virus that is curable,” Peyton said.