Home > Hepatitis C prevalence and management among patients receiving opioid substitution treatment in general practice in Ireland: baseline data from a feasibility study.

Murtagh, Ross and Swan, Davina and O'Connor, Eileen and McCombe, Geoff and Lambert, John S and Avramovic, Gordana and Cullen, Walter (2018) Hepatitis C prevalence and management among patients receiving opioid substitution treatment in general practice in Ireland: baseline data from a feasibility study. Interactive Journal of Medical Research, 7, (2), e10313.

External website: https://www.i-jmr.org/2018/2/e10313/

BACKGROUND: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major cause of chronic liver disease and death. Injection drug use is now one of the main routes of transmission of HCV in Ireland and globally with an estimated 80% new infections occurring among people who inject drugs (PWID).

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to examine whether patients receiving opioid substitution therapy in primary care practices in Ireland were receiving guideline-adherent care regarding HCV screening. Ireland has developed a model of care for delivering opioid substitution treatment in the primary care setting. We conducted this study given the shift of providing care for PWID from secondary to primary care settings, in light of current guidelines aimed at scaling up interventions to reduce chronic HCV infection and associated mortality.

METHODS: We included baseline data from the Dublin site of the Heplink study, a feasibility study focusing on developing complex interventions to enhance community-based HCV treatment and improve the HCV care pathway between primary and secondary care. We recruited 14 opioid substitution treatment-prescribing general practices that employed the administration of opioid substitution therapy from the professional networks and databases of members of the research consortium. A standardized nonprobability sampling framework was used to identify 10 patients from each practice to participate in the study. Patients were eligible if aged ≥18 years, on opioid substitution treatment, and attending the practice for any reason during the recruitment period. The baseline data were collected from the clinical records of participating patients. We collected and analyzed data on demographic characteristics, care processes and outcomes regarding HCV and other blood-borne viruses, urinalysis test results, alcohol use disorders, chronic illness, and health service utilization. We examined whether patients received care concordant with guidelines related to HCV screening and care.

RESULTS: The baseline data were collected from clinical records of 134 patients; 72.2% (96/134) were males; (mean age 43, SD 7.6; range 27-71 years); 94.8% (127/134) of patients had been tested for anti-HCV antibody in their lifetime; of those, 77.9% (99/127) tested positive. Then, 83.6% (112/134) of patients had received an HIV antibody test in their lifetime; of those, 6.3% (7/112) tested HIV positive. Moreover, 66.4% (89/134) of patients had been tested for hepatitis B virus in their lifetime and 8% (7/89) of those were positive. In the 12 months before the study, 30.6% (41/134) of patients were asked about their alcohol use by their general practitioner, 6.0% (8/134) received a brief intervention, and 2.2% (3/134) were referred to a specialist addiction or alcohol treatment service.

CONCLUSIONS: With general practice and primary care playing an increased role in HCV care, this study highlights the importance of prioritizing the development and evaluation of real-world clinical solutions that support patients from diagnosis to treatment completion.

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