A new model to treat Hepatitis C in the community

Lead researchers: Professor Walter Cullen and Dr Jack Lambert, University College Dublin, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

HRB research on barriers to accessing Hepatitis C treatment has led to an ‘integrated care’ model in Dublin and other cities in the EU. Integrated care in action.
In Summary

Hepatitis C is a chronic and sometimes fatal condition, and injecting drug users are at high risk of infection. A foundation study funded by the HRB examined why people at risk in the community were not being tested or treated for the virus. This led to a pilot study in Dublin where people at risk of Hepatitis C who attended their GP or other clinics in the community could more easily be tested for the condition and start treatment, if necessary. This integrated model has changed Hepatitis C care in Dublin and is now being replicated in a larger EU-funded study in centres across Europe.      

The Problem

Hepatitis C can cause chronic disease, liver damage and even death, and it is common among current and former injecting drug users. A HRB-funded study identified that people at risk of Hepatitis C tended to avoid getting a diagnosis and treatment because of stigma about the virus and a fear that diagnosis and treatment would be painful.  

The Project

Following major advances that mean diagnosing and treating Hepatitis C is now easier and more effective for patients, a group at UCD and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital established a pilot ‘integrated model’ in Dublin called HEPCARE which links GPs, addiction and homeless medical services with infectious diseases experts to enhance Hepatitis C testing and treatment.

The Outcomes

We now know that: -

  • Hepatitis C infection is common (77%) among current and former injecting drug users in Dublin.

HRB research led to a pilot programme between GPs and the Mater Hospital to boost testing and treatment for Hepatitis C in the local area.

That integrated model of Hepatitis C care is now being replicated in London, Saville and Bucharest as part of an EU-funded project.

Professor Walter Cullen, GP and Professor of Urban General Practice at UCD says:

'The HRB study on Hepatitis C in Dublin formed the foundation for a model of care that makes it easier for people at risk of Hepatitis C infection to access testing and treatment for the condition. The work has changed our approach to Hepatitis C care in Dublin and elsewhere in the EU and is an example of integrated care in action'.