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Point-of-care Testing Strategies for Diagnosis and Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Australia

Timely diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is critical to achieve elimination goals. A study, published in The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific, evaluated the cost-effectiveness of point-of-care testing strategies for HCV compared to laboratory-based testing in standard-of-care.

Cost-effectiveness analyses were undertaken from the perspective of Australian Governments as funders by modelling point-of-care testing strategies compared to standard-of-care in needle and syringe programs, drug treatment clinics, and prisons. Point-of-care testing strategies included immediate point-of-care HCV RNA testing and combined point-of-care HCV antibody and reflex RNA testing for HCV antibody positive people (with and without consideration of previous treatment). Sensitivity analyses were performed to investigate the cost per treatment initiation with different testing strategies at different HCV antibody prevalence levels.

The average costs per HCV treatment initiation by point-of-care testing, from A$890 to A$1406, were up to 35% lower compared to standard-of-care ranging from A$1248 to A$1632 depending on settings. The average costs per treatment initiation by point-of-care testing for three settings ranged from A$1080 to A$1406 for RNA, A$960–A$1310 for combined antibody/RNA without treatment history consideration, and A$890–A$1189 for combined antibody/RNA with treatment history consideration. When HCV antibody prevalence was <74%, combined point-of-care HCV antibody and point-of-care RNA testing were the most cost-effective strategies. Modest increases in treatment uptake by 8%–31% were required for immediate point-of-care HCV RNA testing to achieve equivalent cost per treatment initiation compared to standard-of-care.

Interpretation: Point-of-care testing is more cost-effective than standard of care for populations at risk of HCV. Testing strategies combining point-of-care HCV antibody and RNA testing are likely to be cost-effective in most settings.

Access full study results here.