The US Department of Veterans Affairs now offers hepatitis C treatment to all veterans in its healthcare system, according to JAMA.
1. All veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system are eligible to receive new antiviral treatments – even those who did not contract the infection during military service. Veterans are also eligible regardless of the stage of the illness.
2. This comprehensive eligibility is a change from last year, when the department began restricting treatment to those with advanced liver disease.
3. Eligibility had been restricted due to an unexpectedly high demand for hepatitis C medication, however, this year Congress committed more funds to hepatitis C treatment for veterans. This year, Congress allocated $1.5 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically for hepatitis C.
4. The department also aims to screen all veterans born between 1945 and 1965 for the infection, since this timeframe accounts for more than 75 percent of hepatitis C infections.
5. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of death in the United States, taking more lives than infections like HIV, tuberculosis and other conditions combined. This information is particularly concerning for veterans, since Vietnam veterans suffer from hepatitis C at a rate up to five times greater than the general population.