In people who inject drugs (PWID), late chronic HCV (hepatitis C virus) disease therapy can cause severe liver damage. five to 20 percent will live with cirrhosis and up to five percent will die from it.
The latest research from New York University suggests that delayed HCV treatment can contribute to severe liver damage, Drug injection is the primary way to contract HCV within the U.S., making it a common disease among people who inject drugs. Less than five percent of PWID receive treatment for their HCV.
For the research, 21 studies were examined with over 8500 persons who inject drugs.
Principal investigator, Holly Hagan, said, “Understanding HCV disease progression rates among people who inject drugs (PWID) is important to setting policy to expand access to detection, diagnosis and treatment, and in forecasting the burden of disease. In this study we synthesized existing data on the natural history of HCV among PWID, including fibrosis progression rates and the incidence of compensated cirrhosis, decompensated cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.”
“Based on our analysis of fibrosis progression, PWID, on average, will have moderate liver fibrosis between 26 to 38 years after HCV infection and will develop cirrhosis within 34 to 46 years,” said Dr. Hagan. Since PWID tend to be infected at an early age, they are likely to develop HCC in mid- to late-adulthood, resulting in losses of individuals in their most productive period of life.”
The researchers believe their findings reveal many benefits associated with early treatment of HCV and can eventually result in a cure. Furthermore, many insurers do not cover such early preventative treatment, not until the illness has progressed much further.
The team is hopeful that by creating a better understanding of the rates of HCV in PWID they can create policy change among insurers. Dr. Hagan concluded, “Unfortunately, the restrictions on HCV treatment force us to identify other ways to slow disease progression.”