Drug and Alcohol Review 2007 26;4:437-43
Hallinan R, Byrne A, Dore GJ. Harm reduction, hepatitis C and opioid pharmacotherapy: an opportunity for integrated hepatitis C virus-specific harm reduction.
The Byrne Surgery. Redfern, NSW, Australia.
While harm reduction advocates, policy makers and practitioners have a right to be proud of the impact of interventions such as needle and syringe programmes on HIV risk, we can be less sanguine about the ongoing high levels of HCV transmission among injecting drug users (IDUs) and the expanding burden of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related liver disease. In this Harm Reduction Digest Drs Byrne and Hallinan from the Redfern Clinic and Dr Dore from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research offer a model of integrated HCV prevention and treatment services within the setting of opioid pharmacotherapy.
In their experience, this common-sense approach provides an opportunity to reduce the burden of HCV and improve overall patient management. They believe that the key elements of a HCV-specific harm reduction model include: regular HCV testing; clinical assessment and determination of need for HCV treatment referral; use of broader HCV treatment inclusion criteria; and flexibility in opioid pharmacotherapy dosing. In an environment when our macro harm reduction interventions seem to have, at best, modest impact on HCV transmission, good clinical practice may be our most effective strategy against the HCV epidemic.
This paper provides some practical suggestions as to how this can be done.