HCV testing rates dropped during pandemic

May 18, 2021

A new Quest Diagnostics Health Trends report developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that rates of routine hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and treatment declined during the pandemic.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The study builds on an ongoing collaboration between Quest and CDC to study viral hepatitis infections and support the goal to eliminate hepatitis C in the United States. Quest said it is the first large scale study by Quest Diagnostics to analyze patterns in hepatitis C virus antibody screening and RNA diagnostic testing along with prescription treatments, providing insights into the interplay of laboratory testing and therapy.

According to the findings:

             HCV antibody testing (used to screen for potential active HCV infection) volume decreased 59% during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020) and rebounded to a 6% reduction in July, compared with the same months in 2018 and 2019.

             The number of HCV RNA (used to diagnose active HCV infection) positive results fell by 62% in March 2020 and remained 39% below the same months in 2018 and 2019.

             For hepatitis C treatment, prescriptions decreased 43% in May, 37% in June, and 38% in July of 2020, relative to the corresponding months in 2018 and 2019.

             Although HCV antibody screening rebounded close to the 2019 (pre-pandemic) volume, in June and July 2020, HCV RNA confirmed positives (diagnoses) and HCV treatments remained nearly 40% below the corresponding months of 2019.

To reach these results, investigators evaluated data from a large national reference clinical laboratory and national estimates of dispensed prescriptions for HCV treatment. The analysis included 12,309,475 HCV antibody test results and 326,603 HCV RNA test results during the time period from 2018 through 2020. In addition, the investigators analyzed 486,181 hepatitis C direct acting antiretroviral (DAA) medications dispensed January 2018 through July 2020 based on new and refilled pharmacy transactions in a national prescription database.

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