Mass treatment of a population with chronic hepatitis C infection has produced high rates of cure, according to a study. The research, conducted in Punjab, evaluated the feasibility of decentralised care and the provision of free direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) among a population of almost 20,000 individuals.
It validated the efficacy and safety of generic all-oral DAA regimens delivered using a decentralised algorithm-based public health model. “We have shown in our study that it is possible to cure more than 90% of individuals with HCV infection in a highly dispersed population using well-trained teams in government medical colleges and district hospitals, and widely available DAAs,” said lead author Radha Krishan Dhiman. “We believe the Punjab Model could be applied to many different populations with the aim of eliminating HCV.”
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection represents a major healthcare burden in India, with an estimated 12-18 million people infected. The burden is particularly heavy in the Indian state of Punjab, owing to the high prevalence of risk factors such as unsafe medical practices — including unsafe medical injections, blood transfusions and dental procedures — and intravenous drug use. Similar to other geographical regions in India, genotype 3 predominates in the state of Punjab.
The study presented by Dhiman formed part of a concerted effort in the Punjab region to both, decrease the reservoir of HCV by treating established cases and reduce the incidence of new cases, and was made possible by the foundation in 2016 of the Mukh Mantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund, which provides free treatment to all individuals with chronic HCV infection.
The study assessed the feasibility of delivering decentralized HCV care via three government medical colleges and 22 district hospitals and required the training of approximately 90 medical specialists, pharmacists and data managers.
“This study is an impressive example of how to upscale the treatment of hepatitis C, which is important to reduce hepatitis C-related complications, particularly the development of hepatocellular carcinoma”, said researcher Markus Cornberg. The study was reported at The International Liver Congress2018 in Paris, France.