Community-based treatment for chronic hepatitis C in drug users: high rates of compliance with therapy despite ongoing drug use

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Abstract

Background

Chronic hepatitis C infection is common in drug users. Treatment of injectors is possible under controlled conditions, but many have not yet been included in treatment programmes as there are concerns about their ability to comply with therapy. It is not known which factors influence compliance.

Aim

To examine the hypothesis that active drug users would comply with anti-viral therapy if treatment was delivered in a convenient manner.

Methods

We established a community-based treatment programme and offered anti-viral therapy to all drug users who wanted it. Few pre-treatment requirements were imposed and, by design, compliance with therapy was reviewed after 50 patients had completed treatment.

Results

Of the 441 patients who were known to be HCV RNA positive and attended the specialist addiction services during the period of this study, eighty three patients considered therapy. Twenty patients did not undergo treatment: 14 declined and 6 had medical conditions that precluded it. In 60 episodes (58 patients) where treatment had been completed, compliance was greater than 80% and homelessness, active illicit drug use and pre-treatment antidepressant therapy were not associated with noncompliance. In 25 of 49 treatment episodes that were assessed 6 months after treatment cessation, a sustained virological response (51%) was seen.

Conclusion

Active drug users using illicit drugs can be successfully treated in community-based clinics.

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