Omar T. Sims, David E. Pollio, Barry A. Hong, Carol S. North
Background. Hepatitis C (HCV) is more prevalent in African Americans than in any other racial group in the United States. However, African Americans are more likely to be deemed ineligible for HCV treatment than non-African Americans. There has been limited research into the origins of racial disparities in HCV treatment eligibility. Aim. The purpose of this study was to compare medical and non-medical characteristics commonly assessed in clinical practice that could potentially contribute to HCV treatment ineligibility disparities between African American and non-African American patients. Material and methods. Patients with confirmed HCV RNA considering treatment (n = 309) were recruited from university-affiliated and VA liver and infectious disease clinics. Results. African Americans and non-African Americans did not differ in prevalence of lifetime and current psychiatric disorders and risky behaviors, and HCV knowledge. HCV clinical characteristics were similar between both groups in terms of HCV exposure history, number of months aware of HCV diagnosis, stage of fibrosis, and HCV virologic levels. African Americans did have higher proportions of diabetes, renal disease, and bleeding ulcer. Conclusions. No clinical evidence was found to indicate that African Americans should be more often deemed ineligible for HCV treatment than other racial groups. Diabetes and renal disease do not fully explain the HCV treatment ineligibility racial disparity, because HCV patients with these conditions are priority patients for HCV treatment because of their greater risk for cirrhosis, steatosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The findings suggest that an underlying contributor to the HCV treatment eligibility disparity disfavoring African Americans could be racial discrimination.
Key words. Hepatitis C., African Americans., Treatment eligibility., Disparities.