BACKGROUND: New hepatitis C virus (HCV) drugs-direct-acting antivirals (DAAs)-are highly effective but costly, which raises a concern about limited access to DAAs by vulnerable populations. Previous studies of disparities in DAA use across patient groups showed mixed results, but their generalizability was limited due to using data from commercial insurers or from 2014 only-the first year DAAs were available. Disparities in DAA use in a national cohort in the years when more DAAs were available is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To examine whether disparities in DAA use by patient race/ ethnicity and socioeconomic status in Medicare changed between 2014 and 2016. METHODS: The study population was made up of chronic hepatitis C patients in fee-for-service Medicare with Part D between 2014 and 2016. We used multinomial logistic regression to estimate adjusted odds ratios (aOR) of using DAAs by patient race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. We estimated the model separately for 2014 and 2014-2016. RESULTS: Of 281,810 Medicare patients who were followed to the end of 2016, a total of 90,419 (32.1%) filled prescriptions for DAAs. In the 2014 analysis, blacks were less likely to use DAAs than whites (aOR=0.95; 95% CI=0.91-0.99). However, in the 2014-2016 analysis, blacks had higher odds of using DAAs than whites (aOR=1.24; 95% CI=1.22-1.27). No significant Hispanic-white gap existed during the study period. Income was positively associated with DAA use in both periods. Between 2014 and 2016, patients who received a Part D low-income subsidy had lower odds of using DAAs than patients who did not (aOR=0.90; 95% CI=0.88-0.92), and patients in areas with the higher income tertiles were more likely to initiate DAAs than those in areas with the lowest income tertile. CONCLUSIONS: DAA use among Medicare patients remained far below the level needed to eradicate HCV. The black-white gap in HCV treatment was closed by 2016, but disparities by patient socioeconomic status remained. DAA use also varied by patient age and health risk, as well as across geographic regions. Continued efforts to improve DAA uptake in all HCV patients are needed to eradicate HCV.
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