Objectives: Opiate substitution treatment (OST) programs could provide opportunities for management of comorbidities, such as hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, in people who inject drugs. We aimed to prospectively evaluate the real-life feasibility of interferon/ribavirin-based HCV treatment in OST recipients, with a special focus on psychiatric status and health-related quality of life.
Methods: Patients from a cohort of OST recipients from three cities in Sweden were selected for HCV treatment on the basis of structured investigation for HCV-related liver disease. Therapy was delivered in collaboration between infectious disease and OST clinics, with monitoring for completion and adherence, treatment response, adverse events, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) (SF-36) and signs of depression (MADRS-S), or relapse into drug abuse. The primary endpoint was completion of prescribed treatment; the secondary endpoints were sustained virological response (SVR), adherence, and incidence of depression.
Results: Among 69 patients with an indication for antiviral therapy, 41 initiated treatment; 34/41 (83%) completed treatment and 19/41 (46%) achieved SVR. Adequate adherence was observed in 29/41 patients (71%). Two serious adverse events occurred, including one death because of liver failure. Baseline scores for self-assessed health were low, with a significant reduction during treatment. Seventy-one percent of patients (29/41) fulfilled the criteria for clinically significant depression at some time point during treatment. Baseline scores for HRQoL/MADRS-S were associated with treatment completion, SVR, and depression during treatment.
Conclusion: Despite the low HRQoL and the high occurrence of depression, HCV treatment was feasible and showed satisfactory rates of completion in this cohort of unselected OST recipients.