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.
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.