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VA Delaying HCV Treatment to Veterans?

May 11, 2015

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A recent VA memo recommends urgently treating those with advanced liver disease, but holding off for patients with mild cases of the illness.

The VA’s Hepatitis C Problem

By Gerard Flynn

Martin Dames is a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. He received the Bronze Star for heroism in the combat zone and three Purple Hearts for injuries he suffered while fighting. He made it out alive, only to find out years later that those combat wounds got him infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a deadly blood-borne pathogen discovered in 1989 that claims about 19,000 lives annually, a large number of them veterans. That number is growing every year.

A chronic infection in around 80 percent of cases, HCV often shows no signs of its corrosive presence until extensive liver scarring occurs after decades of infection. In some cases, the disease isn’t found until it has led to cirrhosis—advanced and potentially lethal amounts of scarring. Infection with the virus is a leading cause of liver cancer and transplants in the U.S.

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