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Keywords:

  • HCV/HIV coinfection;
  • methadone;
  • opiate replacement;
  • substance abuse;
  • viral hepatitis

Summary.  Despite a high prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) among drug users, HCV evaluation and treatment acceptance are extremely low among these patients when referred from drug treatment facilities for HCV management. We sought to increase HCV treatment effectiveness among patients from a methadone maintenance treatment program (MMTP) by maintaining continuity of care. We developed, instituted and retrospectively assessed the effectiveness of an integrated, co-localized care model in which an internist-addiction medicine specialist from MMTP was embedded in the hepatitis clinic. Methadone maintenance treatment program patients were referred, evaluated by the internist and hepatologist in hepatitis clinic and provided HCV treatment with integration between both sites. Of 401 evaluated patients, anti-HCV antibody was detected in 257, 86% of whom were older than 40 years. Hepatitis C virus RNA levels were measured in 222 patients, 65 of whom were aviremic. Of 157 patients with detectable HCV RNA, 125 were eligible for referral to the hepatitis clinic, 76 (61%) of whom accepted and adhered with the referral. Men engaged in MMTP <36 months were significantly less likely to be seen in hepatitis clinic than men in MMTP more than 36 months (odds ratio = 7.7; 95% confidence interval 2.6–22.9) or women. We evaluated liver histology in 63 patients, and 83% had moderate to advanced liver disease. Twenty-four patients initiated treatment with 19 completing and 13 (54%) achieving sustained response. In conclusion, integrated care between the MMTP and the hepatitis clinic improves adherence with HCV evaluation and treatment compared to standard referral practices.