New ‘living document’ provides real-time Hepatitis C treatment guidance

UAB’s Michael Saag, M.D., served as co-chair of a panel of 27 liver and infectious diseases experts to develop Hepatitis C guidance for clinicians that will live online.

hcv saagWhen treatment guidelines for a particular disease emerge, they are often published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, which can take up to three years. One University of Alabama at Birmingham infectious diseases expert recently helped develop new Hepatitis C virus (HCV) guidelines that can be updated and published as new data emerge and new therapies are approved.

HCV — which affects more than 3 million people in the United States and is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — last saw guidelines released in 2011.

Michael Saag, M.D., professor of medicine in the UAB School of Medicine, served as co-chair of a panel of more than two dozen liver and infectious diseases doctors that created, a new online resource launched by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, in collaboration with the International Antiviral Society-USA.

“These guidelines synthesize all of the available information into very practical recommendations of what drugs are best to use for the different types of HCV presentations,” Saag said. “What’s unique about these guidelines is that they are in a living document that can change as new drugs are approved and if there are minor errors they can be amended immediately, so it has tremendous benefits to it on many levels.”

Saag says previous guidance was exclusively about using interferon-based treatments, which makes those outdated as new medications that have fewer side effects and less treatment time than interferon have been approved, and several more are coming in the next year.

“There’s this almost avalanche of new drugs coming our way — which is a great thing — but it presented a huge challenge to all of us to keep up with what drugs are best for which situation,” Saag explained. “It’s very rewarding to recognize this need, create a vision for what must be done, then with a group of colleagues, translate that vision into a tangible document that meets the criteria we set out to develop.”