Background: Although hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment has shown to be effective, uptake of treatment among active drug users is still low. The Drug Users Treatment for Chronic Hepatitis-C project aims to offer active drug users in Amsterdam HCV testing and treatment using a multidisciplinary approach.
Methods: The study population comprises drug users participating in the Amsterdam Cohort Studies and drug users referred to the Drug Users Treatment for Chronic Hepatitis-C unit. Drug users were offered HCV testing and, if chronically infected, medical and psychiatric screening and HCV treatment. Various specialists collaborated to provide optimal care. We assessed test-uptake and treatment-uptake and outcomes.
Results: Four hundred and ninety-seven Amsterdam Cohort Studies drug users were offered HCV testing: 449 out of 497 (90%) accepted. HCV antibodies were found in 267 out of 449 (60%): 183 out of 267 (69%) were HCV-viremic and 49 out of 183 (27%) were HIV-co-infected. Of the 134 HCV-monoinfected patients, 102 (76%) initiated additional medical screening and 44 started treatment by 1 July 2009. Sixty-two drug users referred from methadone clinics were also HCV-monoinfected, of whom 14 started treatment by 1 July 2009. In total 58 persons were treated: 16 (27%) with genotype 1 or 4, 42 (72%) with genotype 2 or 3. Eighty-four percent used methadone, 97% used drugs (heroin, cocaine or amphetamine) at least once in the 6 months before treatment, 19% were active injectors. Sixty-two percent used alcohol, 41% had psychiatric disease other than substance abuse. Of the 57 individuals with sufficient follow-up, 37 (65%) achieved sustained virological response.
Conclusion: In a multidisciplinary setting, HIV-negative drug users with chronic HCV infection can be treated successfully despite active drug or alcohol use and psychiatric diseases. Therefore, access to HCV therapy using an integrated approach should be increased for this population.