LOUISVILLE, Ky., January 25, 2023 (NewsDirect)— St. Matthews Specialty Pharmacy is partnering with healthcare providers to make an impact on reducing barriers to treatment and increasing access to medication for hepatitis C virus (HCV) in conjunction with the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD).
There are approximately 42,500 people living with hepatitis C in Kentucky. Often called a “silent epidemic,” cases of acute HCV have increased 124% in the U.S. since 2013 and 16% from 2019 to 2020 alone. HCV is highly preventable and curable in more than 95% of people in as few as 8–12 weeks with direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medications, yet more than half of people who become infected with the virus will develop a chronic infection that can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.
HCV disproportionately affects marginalized groups, including people with substance use disorder. Approximately 70% of patients on opioid agonist treatment (OAT) and an estimated 40% of people who inject drugs are HCV positive. St. Matthews Specialty Pharmacy has a unique integrated care model led by pharmacists and technicians with advanced experience in managing co-existing and co-occurring health disorders, such as hepatitis, in individuals suffering from substance use disorder. Patients at St. Matthews Specialty Pharmacy are enrolled in a patient management plan where they are provided one-on-one individualized disease state education, drug therapy management and medication counseling. This personalized approach to care using customized pharmacist intervention increases treatment adherence and improves success of patients reaching their health goals.
“We have been curing patients with HCV since 1998,” said Dr. Bennet Cecil, founder of the Hepatitis C Treatment Center in Louisville. “We have been able to reach many more Kentuckians by coordinating our efforts with St. Matthews Specialty Pharmacy and substance abuse specialty clinics. This coordination produces many more cured patients than the previous models of care.”
“There are so many obstacles that prevent people from seeking treatment for substance use disorder,” said Bob Mann, executive vice president of Cordant Health Solutions’ integrated services. “Many experience homelessness, are uninsured, have limited or no transportation available to get to appointments, or don’t have a doctor or know how to find one. But once they take that first step, we need to take that opportunity to treat the whole patient, not just an individual condition. We work with clinicians to coordinate pharmacy services for substance use disorder and other diseases like hepatitis to bring extended care to patients at the same time and place they’re receiving their other treatments.”
St. Matthews Pharmacy offers a managed addiction treatment pharmacy program, which delivers medication to patients at their doctor’s office at the time of their appointment, eliminating additional transportation and time challenges and helping to increase retention in their treatment program. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), addiction treatment facilities are well-positioned to greatly impact access to screening and treatment of HCV positive patients. Additionally, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states “integration of service delivery, addressing the unique needs of addiction patients, including HCV treatment, is strongly encouraged.”