Treat Early or Wait and Monitor?

A Qualitative Analysis of Provider Hepatitis C Virus Treatment Decision-Making in the Context of HIV Coinfection

Published in: AIDS Patient Care and STDs, v. 23, no. 9, Sep. 2009, p. 715-725

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Glenn Wagner, Gery W. Ryan, Karen Chan Osilla, Laveeza Bhatti, Matthew Bidwell Goetz, Mallory D. Witt

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Liver disease is a leading cause of death among patients with HIV coinfected with hepatitis C (HCV); yet, studies show that less than 10% receive HCV treatment, in part because of limited treatment response, high treatment toxicity, and psychosocial barriers to treatment readiness. Using a process model framework, we sought to explore the factors and processes by which providers make HCV treatment decisions for HIV-coinfected patients. The authors conducted 22 semistructured interviews with primary care providers and support staff at three HIV clinics in Los Angeles, California, in which rates of HCV treatment uptake varied from 10% to 38%. Providers agreed that stable HIV disease, favorable genotype, and significant signs of liver disease progression are all signs of need for treatment. However, two divergent treatment approaches emerged for genotype 1 and 4 patients with minimal disease, and in definitions of patient readiness. Providers with lower treatment rates preferred to delay treatment in hopes of better future treatment options, and were more conservative in requiring complete mental health screens and treatment and abstinence from substance use. Conversely, providers with higher treatment rates viewed all patients as needing treatment as soon as possible, and defined readiness more leniently, with some willing to treat even in the context of untreated depression and drug use, so long as ability to adhere well was demonstrated. Regardless of whether an aggressive or cautious approach to treatment is used, development of effective programs for promoting patient treatment readiness is critical to ensuring greater treatment uptake.

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