The rate of hospital stays due to hepatitis C (HCV) has increased substantially among baby boomers—up 67.3% between 2005 and 2014 in this age group (aged 52 to 72 years), according to a recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, MD.
During the same 10-year period, the hospitalization rate increased only 12.2% in older HCV patients (aged 73 years and older), and decreased by 14.9% in younger patients (aged 18 to 51 years), AHRQ researchers reported.
Baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) also had the highest rate of hospital stays among Americans with HCV (503.1 per 100,000 population), compared with patients aged 18-51 years (155.4 per 100,000) and those aged 73 and older (117.1 per 100,000).
Acute cases of HCV nearly tripled from 2010 through 2015 as a result of increased injection drug use due to the growing opioid epidemic, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the highest overall number of new infections has occurred among 20- to 29-year-olds, more than three-quarters of the 3.5 million Americans already living with hepatitis C are baby boomers.
Indeed, baby boomers are six times more likely to be infected with HCV than people in other age groups, and are at much greater risk for death from the virus, the CDC reported.
HCV hospitalizations take a toll
In 2014, 636,900 adult hospitalizations involved hepatitis C.
Hospital stays for HCV only—without concomitant hepatitis B, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, or alcoholic liver disease (ALD)—increased 48.9% between 2005 and 2014, according to the AHRQ report. By comparison, hospital stays for HCV co-occurring with hepatitis B, HIV, or ALD increased 10.9%.
“Average costs, length of stay, and the proportion of in-hospital deaths in 2014 were all higher for stays involving hepatitis C than for stays without hepatitis C,” wrote Quyen Ngo-Metzger, MD, MPH, scientific director of AHRQ’s US Preventive Services Task Force Program, and colleagues.
Other notable findings:
- Males represented a higher proportion of hospital stays involving HCV (61.5%), compared with hospital stays due to other reasons. Males also constituted the highest proportion of HCV-related stays among baby boomers (66.5%), but the lowest proportion among those aged 73 years and older (47.9%).
- Among baby boomers in 2014, liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, ascites, and upper gastrointestinal bleeding were more common in hospital stays involving HCV-only than in stays not associated with HCV.
- Drug and alcohol abuse, coagulopathy, and psychoses were among the comorbidities more common among HCV-only stays than in stays without HCV.
“Stopping hepatitis C will eliminate an enormous disease and economic burden for all Americans,” said John Ward, MD, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis.
“We have a cure for this disease and the tools to prevent new infections,” added Dr. Ward. “Now we need a substantial, focused, and concerted national effort to implement the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and make effective prevention tools and curative treatment available to Americans in need.”