Eradication of Hepatitis C Dependent on Drug Users’ Access to Treatment

At the 5th annual International Symposium on Hepatitis Care in Substance Users, experts spoke out strongly on the need for hepatitis C treatment to be more accessible to drug users.
Hepatitis C virus model, 3D illustration. A virus consists of a protein coat (capsid) surrounding RNA and outer lipoprotein envelope with glycoprotein spikes
“To delay further is unethical and undermines public health,” said Jason Grebely, of the Kirby Institute of Australia’s University of New South Wales, in a press release from the meeting.

The condition impacts as many as 100 million people worldwide, astronomically increases patients’ risks for cirrhosis and liver cancer, and kills almost three-quarters of a million people annually. The vast majority of new cases, at least in high-income nations, are among intravenous drug users.

The meeting was hosted by the International Network for Hepatitis C in Substance Users (INHSU), and the group points to economic and pseudo-scientific barriers that keep drug-using hepatitis sufferers from receiving new, effective treatments, including an assumption that illicit drug use reduced the efficacy of certain medications. The group emphasized last year’s C-EDGE CO-STAR Clinical Trial, which found no negative impact on therapy, and that reinfection rates among users were as low as 4%.

As new treatments have proven their effectiveness, organizations and countries have created audacious goals for the total eradication of the condition. The World Health Organization aspires to see hepatitis B and C eliminated as a “global health threat” by 2030, with 80% overall diagnosis and 65% treatment. Only a minority of global HCV cases are currently believed to be diagnosed.

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