Clinical trial: a primary-care-based model for the delivery of anti-viral treatment to injecting drug users infected with hepatitis C

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Abstract

Background

Injecting drug use is the main risk factor for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Secondary-care-based strategies for the management of HCV do not effectively target this vulnerable population.

Aims

To evaluate the feasibility, safety and efficacy of a primary-care-based model for the delivery of HCV services including anti-viral therapy to injecting drug users.

Methods

A partnership between a clinical nurse specialist employed by, and working under the supervision of, a secondary-care-based hepatitis service and drug workers and general practitioners. Three hundred and fifty-three clients attending opiate substitution clinics in primary care were evaluated. Outcomes were: number of new diagnoses of HCV infection, number of clients assessed as suitable for anti-viral treatment, and number of patients treated.

Results

174 HCV antibody positive clients were identified. Of these, 124 were chronically infected with HCV of whom only six had been previously identified. Of 118 new chronically-infected individuals, 86 entered the care pathway, 43 were assessed as suitable for anti-viral treatment and 30 have so far been treated. Outcomes of anti-viral treatment are comparable with those obtained in secondary care settings.

Conclusion

A primary-care-based model offers a new paradigm for the treatment of HCV in injecting drug users.

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