Home > Interventions to enhance testing and linkage to treatment for hepatitis C infection for people who inject drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Cunningham, Evan B and Wheeler, Alice and Hajarizadeh, Behzad and French, Clare E and Roche, Rachel and Marshall, Alison D and Fontaine, Guillaume and Conway, Anna and Bajis, Sahar and Valencia, Braulio M and Presseau, Justin and Ward, John W and Degenhardt, Louisa and Dore, Gregory J and Hickman, Matthew and Vickerman, Peter and Grebely, Jason (2023) Interventions to enhance testing and linkage to treatment for hepatitis C infection for people who inject drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Drug Policy, 111, 103917. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103917.

BACKGROUND With the advent of direct acting antiviral (DAA) therapies for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV), the World Health Organization recommended a goal to eliminate HCV as a public health threat globally by 2030. With the majority of new and existing infections in high income countries occurring among people who inject drugs, achieving this goal will require the design and implementation of interventions which address the unique barriers to HCV care faced by this population.

METHODS In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched bibliographic databases and conference abstracts to July 21, 2020 for studies assessing interventions to improve the following study outcomes: HCV antibody testing, HCV RNA testing, linkage to care, and treatment initiation. We included both randomised and non-randomised studies which included a comparator arm. We excluded studies which enrolled only paediatric populations (<18 years old) and studies where the intervention was conducted in a different healthcare setting than the control or comparator. This analysis was restricted to studies conducted among people who inject drugs. Data were extracted from the identified records and meta-analysis was used to pool the effect of interventions on study outcomes. This study was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42020178035).

FINDINGS Of 15,342 unique records, 45 studies described the implementation of an intervention to improve HCV testing, linkage to care and treatment initiation among people who inject drugs. These included 27 randomised trials and 18 non-randomised studies with the risk of bias rated as "critical" for most non-randomised studies. Patient education and patient navigation to address patient-level barriers to HCV care were shown to improve antibody testing uptake and linkage to HCV care respectively although patient education did not improve antibody testing when restricted to randomised studies. Provider care coordination to address provider level barriers to HCV care was effective at improving antibody testing uptake. Three different interventions to address systems-level barriers to HCV care were effective across different stages of HCV care: point-of-care antibody testing (linkage to care); dried blood-spot testing (antibody testing uptake); and integrated care (linkage to care and treatment initiation).

INTERPRETATION Multiple interventions are available that can address the barriers to HCV care for people who inject drugs at the patient-, provider-, and systems-level. The design of models of care to improve HCV testing and treatment among people who inject drugs must consider the unique barriers to care that this population faces. Further research, including high-quality randomised controlled trials, are needed to robustly assess the impact these interventions can have in varied populations and settings.

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