The numbers of people who commenced curative direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) dropped sharply to 532 last year, compared to 1,196 in 2019.
A spokesperson for the HSE National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme (NHCTP) told the Medical Independent (MI) that treatment numbers had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is mainly due to the disruption of primary care and the reduction in outpatient numbers in hospital,” said a spokesperson. “However, the NHCTP has remained open since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and new patients continued to be assessed and treated. There were some delays in receiving PCR and genotyping results in the early period of the pandemic, but these have been resolved and treatment numbers are now increasing.”
The NHCTP informed MI the target for 2021 “is to seek and treat as many as possible”.
Ireland has committed to the World Health Organisation HCV elimination targets by 2030. However, clinicians and community workers have warned that more efforts are required to ensure treatment access for the most difficult to reach patients. Most diagnosed cases are in people who currently, or formerly, injected drugs.
HCV can be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic for many years.
Ms Nicola Perry, Manager at Community Response, which works extensively on improving HCV treatment access, said HCV elimination required a multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach based in community settings.
See news feature, Walking the hard road to HCV elimination – Medical Independent