By National Institute for Health Research (NIHR Signal)

A combination of providing clean needles and syringes and offering safer oral therapy, such as methadone, reduced the predicted risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C virus by 71%. Providing both services to people who inject drugs was likely to be cost-effective and has the potential to be cost-saving in some parts of the UK, depending on the size of the local population of people who inject drugs and underlying rates of infection.

Current services are estimated to save up to £54 million in costs of treating hepatitis C infection. This is in addition to the savings made from reducing the incidence of HIV infections. This study suggests that if such programmes are decommissioned, the number of new hepatitis C infections would at least double.

This NIHR-funded study combines a review of international evidence with analysis of current usage data from three UK sites, and models the impact of withdrawing or increasing services. The evidence is based on observational studies and modelling so should be interpreted with caution. However, given the nature of the subject, it would be difficult to gather higher quality evidence.

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