BACKGROUND: Many veterans may not be candidates for hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment due to contraindications to therapy. The aims of this study were to determine the proportion of HCV-infected veterans who were eligible for interferon alfa and ribavirin therapy and to evaluate barriers to HCV treatment. METHODS: We prospectively enrolled 4,084 veterans who were referred for HCV treatment over a 1-yr period at 24 Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers. Treatment candidacy was assessed using standardized criteria and the opinion of the treating clinician. RESULTS: Overall, 32.2% (95% CI, 30.8-33.7%) were candidates for HCV treatment according to standardized criteria, whereas 40.7% (95% CI, 39.2-42.3%) were candidates in the opinion of the treating clinician. Multivariable analysis identified ongoing substance abuse (OR = 17.68; 95% CI, 12.24-25.53), comorbid medical disease (OR = 9.62; 95% CI, 6.85-13.50), psychiatric disease (OR = 9.45; 95% CI, 6.70-13.32), and advanced liver disease (OR = 8.43; 95% CI, 4.42-16.06) as the strongest predictors of not being a treatment candidate. Among patients who were considered treatment candidates, 76.2% (95% CI, 74.0-78.3%) agreed to be treated and multivariable analysis showed that persons ≥50 yr of age (OR = 1.37; 95% CI, 1.07-1.76) and those with >50 lifetime sexual partners (OR = 1.44; 95% CI, 1.08-1.93) were more likely to decline treatment. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of veteran patients are not suitable candidates for HCV treatment because of substance abuse, psychiatric disease, and comorbid medical disease, and many who are candidates decline therapy. Multidisciplinary collaboration is needed to overcome barriers to HCV therapy in this population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas