By University of South Wales
Researchers are calling on an end to discriminatory health and illicit drugs policies, based on overwhelming evidence that new hepatitis C therapies are effective at curing the virus in people who inject drugs.
The Kirby Institute research, being presented tomorrow at the 7th International Symposium on Hepatitis Care in Substance Users in Cascais, Portugal and published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, provides the strongest evidence-base to date to support the removal of restrictions to accessing hepatitis C therapy based on recent drug use.
Globally, more than one in three people who have injected drugs in the past year are living with hepatitis C. New therapies for hepatitis C can cure the virus in more than 95% of people, however in many countries the treatment is inaccessible to people who inject drugs, due to restrictions on treatment reimbursement related to an individual's recent drug use. In addition, many clinicians are hesitant to prescribe hepatitis C therapy to people who use or inject drugs, as there are concerns about adherence and the chance of reinfection.
"The results of our research show that the response to hepatitis C therapy among people who inject drugs was very favourable. Across almost 40 studies worldwide, involving more than 3,500 people with recent or ongoing drug use, hepatitis C was cured in almost 9 out of 10 people," said Dr Behzad Hajarizadeh, from the Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program at the Kirby Institute, and lead author on the study. "We conducted a systematic review, which means we examined all the available evidence from studies conducted globally on this topic. It means we can be very confident about these results."