Access to hepatitis C treatment for people who inject drugs in low and middle income settings: Evidence from 5 countries in Eastern Europe and Asia

Niklas Luhmann, Julie Champagnat, Sergey Golovin, Ludmila Maistat, Edo Agustian, Ina Inaridze, Wai Moe Myint, Maia Butsashvili, Julie Bouscaillou
International Journal on Drug Policy 2015, 26 (11): 1081-7

BACKGROUND: People who inject drugs (PWID) are disproportionately affected by the hepatitis C (HCV) epidemic. Of the estimated 16 million PWID worldwide, approximately 8 million live with chronic HCV, and around 26% and 23% of the global HCV infections among PWID occur in East/Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe respectively. Globally, few PWID have access to treatment for HCV.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic literature review and internet survey in 2014 to document the burden of disease, access to diagnosis and treatment and the existence of national policy and treatment guidelines for HCV. We included Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Myanmar and Indonesia as countries with injection drug use epidemics.

FINDINGS: HCV antibody prevalence among the general population ranged from 0.80% in Indonesia to 5% in Georgia, and among PWID from 48.1% in Myanmar to 92% in Georgia. PWID carried a significant burden of disease, ranging from 2.7% in Indonesia to 40.4% in Russia. Yearly treatment uptake was under 1% for the general population and PWID in all countries. Diagnostic tools and disease staging investigations as well as pegylated interferon/ribavirin treatment were available at a range of prices. Despite policy and treatment protocols for HCV in the majority of countries, strategies focusing on PWID were largely absent.

CONCLUSION: PWID are a priority group for treatment, and access to treatment should be based on sound national policy, accessible public treatment programmes and functional surveillance systems.

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