The study was based on a survey of 320 patients enrolled in a New York City-based methadone treatment program (START Treatment and Recovery Centers). Nearly half of them reported that they had tested positive for HCV infection.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents expressed willingness to participate in HCV-related education and to receive treatment for HCV. More than half of those surveyed correctly responded to at least five of seven questions assessing their knowledge about HCV.
"People who inject drugs have always wanted to be treated for hepatitis C, but there have been a variety of barriers at the patient, provider and institutional levels," says Talal. "Most importantly, there has been a lack of education about the disease, a fear of side effects of interferon, discomfort in conventional health care venues and a lack of awareness of the status of the infection."
In some cases, the percentage of HCV-infected people who use drugs that show up for HCV-related medical appointments is as low as 10 percent, according to Talal.
In the current research, patients cited fear of side effects from interferon, which remains as part of the standard treatment regimen for genotype 1 infection, as a key barrier to their willingness to accept HCV treatment. Interferon can cause multiple side effects, ranging from fatigue, fever, nausea, anorexia, muscle pain and hair loss, to insomnia, depression and irritability. In addition, interferon-based therapies are only effective in eliminating infection in half of those who take it.
"A major change in the attitudes of people who use drugs is due to knowledge about greatly improved treatment efficacy and the ability to provide HCV treatment at the same site as the substance abuse treatment," says Talal.
Talal adds that the New York State law mandating that all individuals born between 1945 and 1965 be offered HCV screening is increasing the n
|Contact: Ellen Goldbaum|
University at Buffalo