Liver disease, deaths fall with lowered barriers to hepatitis drugs
Treating intravenous drug users with hepatitis drugs at the community level significantly drove down liver disease and deaths over more than a decade, researchers reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Why it matters: Injection drug use is one of the primary ways hepatitis C spreads, and sharing or reusing needles increases the chance of spreading the virus and exacerbates social and racial health disparities.
- The study is the first to show how increasing access to treatment for the most at-risk individuals can drive down disease levels nationwide.
Details: The study followed more than 1,300 patients in Baltimore with chronic hepatitis-C from 2006 to 2019, using data from the ALIVE study, which followed adults with a history of injecting drugs.
- The proportion of participants with detectable hepatitis C dropped from 100% to 48% over the 13-year timeframe.
- Patients with undetectable hepatitis-C levels had significantly lower risk of death, the study found.
- The cohort study did not administer hepatitis C treatment to patients, which meant that improved outcomes were due to community-based treatment.
The big picture: Hepatitis-C cases have increased each year since 2013, according to the CDC, and federal health agencies have been working to drive down infections nationwide to 35,000 by 2025.
- By 2030, HHS wants to eliminate all viral hepatitis as a public health threat.
- Access to treatment will help other communities reach this goal, the study authors write.
- "With continued testing, treatment, and interventions to strengthen linkage to care and prevent (hepatitis-C) transmission, elimination of (hepatitis-C) infection could be achieved within the next decade," the study says.