The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released draft guidelines that recommend baby boomers undergo a one-time test for hepatitis C. This proposal may have implications for the healthcare marketing of therapies to treat this infection.
"With increasingly effective treatments now available, we can prevent tens of thousands of deaths from hepatitis C," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
About one in 30 Americans born between 1945 and 1965 has hepatitis C, according to the CDC. However, most infected individuals are probably unaware of their disease status. People can live with the virus for several years without experiencing any noticeable symptoms. Without proper interventions, hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, which is the fastest-growing cause of cancer-death in the U.S.
For some patients, a viral infection may lead to diabetes mellitus, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, glomerulonephritis and other health complications not related to the liver. Every year, more than 15,000 Americans die because of diseases related to hepatitis C.
Up to 85 percent of hepatitis C infections become chronic.
People who are vulnerable to this disease include current or former injection drug users, individuals who received blood transfusions before July 1992, chronic hemodialysis patients and those who received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987. On rare occasions, the virus is transmitted through sexual contact.
Currently, more than 2 million American baby boomers are infected with the virus, accounting for 75 percent of all adult hepatitis C patients, according to the CDC. However, many baby boomers do not think they are at risk for this disease.
The agency estimates that its draft guidelines may help identify 800,000 more patients within this age group. With the help of new therapies, the medical community may be able to prevent 120,000 premature deaths.
The draft recommendations are open to public comment until June 8, 2012.