Treating injecting drug users vital in reducing hepatitis C

Burnet Institute

04 June, 2012

New research from the Burnet Institute reveals hepatitis C (HCV) infection among people who inject drugs could be halved over 30 years if more were treated.

The study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, projects the potential impact of HCV treatment on the prevalence of infection among people who inject drugs.

Head of Burnet’s Centre for Population Health, Professor Margaret Hellard says only one to two per 1000 people who inject drugs currently receive treatment for HCV.

However, if treatment of the virus increased to 13, 17 or 25 per 1000 people, prevalence would be reduced by 20, 30 and 50 per cent respectively.

These findings indicate a benefit to structuring clinics and nurses’ roles to improve access to HCV treatment and to support people who inject drugs whilst on treatment.

“There has been a perception by clinicians and health staff more broadly that people who inject drugs have difficulties with complying with treatment,” Professor Hellard said.

“But there is growing evidence that suggests people who inject drugs can be compliant and tolerate HCV treatment.”

Side-effects associated with current HCV treatment are significant and can impact on a patient’s mental health but Professor Hellard said new drugs will come on the market in the next five years which will improve treatment.

“Treatment will become shorter and won’t use ribavirin and interferon (current drugs) which will significantly diminish side effects and treatment effectiveness will also go up,” she explained.

“So if health systems are structured so that access to treatment is easier, and people who inject drugs are given a real choice about whether to have HCV treatment then this can benefit both the individual and the community more broadly.”

To arrange an interview with Professor Margaret Hellard please contact Catherine Somerville.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director, Programs; Adjunct Professor, Monash University, DEPM.




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