HumanInsight An HCV hotline facilitates Hepatitis C elimination during the COVID-19 pandemic
J Viral Hepat. 2022 Sep 5. doi: 10.1111/jvh.13746. Online ahead of print.
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates healthcare restrictions that also affected ongoing hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination efforts. We assessed the value of a physician-operated HCV hotline on treatment and cure rates throughout the pandemic. All HCV patients undergoing HCV therapy at the Vienna General Hospital from 2019 to 2021 were included. An HCV hotline was established in 2019 and provided services including phone calls, text messages and voicemails. Patients were stratified by date of HCV therapy: 2019 (pre-COVID) vs. 2020/2021 (during-COVID) and use of the HCV hotline: users vs. non-users. Overall, 220 patients were included (pre-COVID: n=91 vs. during-COVID: n=129). The prevalence of intravenous drug use (60.5%) and alcohol abuse (24.8%) was high during COVID.During-COVID, the number of DAA treatment starts declined by 24.2% (n=69) in 2020 and by 34.1% (n=60) in 2021 vs. pre-COVID (n=91, 100%). Significantly more patients used the HCV hotline during-COVID (95.3%) vs. pre-COVID (65.9%; p<0.001).Sustained virologic response (SVR) was 84.6% pre-COVID and 86.0% during-COVID. HCV hotline users achieved higher SVR rates during-COVID (88.2% vs. 33.3%, p=0.004), but also pre-COVID (96.7% vs. 61.3%, p<0.001) compared to non-users. Considering only patients with completed DAA treatments, SVR rates remained similarly high during-COVID (96.9%) versus pre-COVID (98.1%).HCV treatment initiations decreased during-COVID but importantly, nearly all DAA-treated HCV patients used the HCV hotline during the COVID pandemic. Overall, the SVR rate remained at 88.2% during COVID and was particularly high in HCV phone users - most likely due to facilitation of adherence.
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