Hepatitis C can affect anyone, regardless of origin and lifestyle. One population is hit especially hard by hepatitis C infections: People who use drugs and share any of their equipment are at very high risk. Aggravating factors such as psychological problems, lack of medical insurance, comorbidities and unhealthy life-style and nutrition make this group of patients especially vulnerable to the devastating effects of hepatitis C. Curing and preventing more HCV infections in people who use drugs does not only protect the individual person from the late-stage damage, but it can also reduce the burden of new infections in this community.
Many doctors shy away from treating hepatitis C in people who have a history of using drugs, even more so if they are still actively using drugs. There are many concerns that this patient population may not be reliable and not adhere to treatment. The social stigma of drug users adds to the stigma of viral hepatitis.
Research has shown that substituted hepatitis C patients are just as adherent to treatment as other patients, and have cure rates that are at least as good, if not higher. It is arguably more difficult to treat patients who still actively use drugs and ensure their adherence. However, case reports show that even this can be done successfully, if patients are carefully selected and supported during treatment. Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of hepatitis C in this population could be a valuable tool to tackle a major health burden. On ELPA’s initiative, a panel of expert hepatologists and psychiatrists are currently discussing strategies and guideline recommendations. At this EASL conference in Barcelona, they will present their interim results at our symposium.
The symposium ‘”You shall not pass!” Stopping the hepatitis C virus in drug users‘ is open for the general public, however, a registration for the EASL conference is neccessary to enter the building.
You can find the invitation to the symposium here.