A significant topic of discussion at the recent International Conference on Viral Hepatitis 2017 centered on the access of care and treatment for hepatitis C. Historically, hepatitis C infections were treated by subspecialists, such as hepatologists (doctors specializing in liver diseases) and gastroenterologists.
For several reasons, the care of hepatitis C has expanded beyond subspecialists over the past few years. In fact, primary care providers are now providing just as effective care as subspecialists. An added advantage is that these primary care doctors serve as gatekeepers to overall care and are engaging with patients in a variety of ways that reduce disease risk, including the risks surrounding needle use by illicit drug users.
Many of those infected with hepatitis C lead an unstable lifestyle, in terms of insecure housing, addiction, and mental health concerns. These patients often fail to show up for follow-up care; however, seeing a primary care provider makes it more likely that they will take the next step of treatment, as opposed to needing to be transferred to a subspecialist before starting treatment.
Even so, not all primary care providers are ready to take on this challenge. Proper training is required. A recent survey found that only 22% of the responding physicians thought that primary care providers were the right place for hepatitis C treatment. However, a majority (84%) were open to getting more training on the issue so they could effectively face the challenge of caring for hepatitis C patients.
Having a team of support – such as other providers in the practice also caring for hepatitis C patients and having knowledgeable pharmacists to interface with – increased the comfort level of primary care providers. This aspect, naturally, is where BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy can help. Our pharmacists offer extensive experience with treating hepatitis C and are available to help our providers throughout the treatment process.
Harrison L. Hep C treatment increasingly feasible in primary care. Medscape Oct. 12, 2017.