To estimate the clinical effects and cost-effectiveness of universal prenatal hepatitis C screening, and to calculate potential life expectancy, quality of life, and health care costs associated with universal prenatal hepatitis C screening and linkage to treatment.
Using a stochastic individual-level microsimulation model, we simulated the lifetimes of 250 million pregnant women matched at baseline with the U.S. childbearing population on age, injection drug use behaviors, and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection status. Modeled outcomes included hepatitis C diagnosis, treatment and cure, lifetime health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALY) and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios comparing universal prenatal hepatitis C screening to current practice. We modeled whether neonates exposed to maternal HCV at birth were identified as such.
Pregnant women with hepatitis C infection lived 1.21 years longer and had 16% lower HCV-attributable mortality with universal prenatal hepatitis C screening, which had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $41,000 per QALY gained compared with current practice. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios remained below $100,000 per QALY gained in most sensitivity analyses; notable exceptions included incremental cost-effectiveness ratios above $100,000 when assuming mean time to cirrhosis of 70 years, a cost greater than $500,000 per false positive diagnosis, or population HCV infection prevalence below 0.16%. Universal prenatal hepatitis C screening increased identification of neonates exposed to HCV at birth from 44% to 92%.
In our model, universal prenatal hepatitis C screening improves health outcomes in women with HCV infection, improves identification of HCV exposure in neonates born at risk, and is cost-effective.