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NHS Tayside Eliminates Hepatitis C in Unprecedented Trial

Hepatitis C is the blood-borne virus that leads to complications of the liver, cirrhosis and liver cancer which NHS Tayside has eliminated from the region.

This announcement comes on world hepatitis day, 11 years ahead of World Health Organisation targets (WHO) and another four years before Scottish Government targets.

Professor John Dillion, of the University of Dundee, said: “The programme started with a single project in a Dundee needle exchange before expanding to multiple research projects and redesign of services to achieve the milestone we have now reached, which justifies the brave decision to support this approach.”

The groundbreaking approach partners NHS Tayside services with the University of Dundee and charity organisations.

As part of the plan, 60 community pharmacy’s, community clinics, prisons and more offer testing and treatment in an eight week, daily, treatment programme.

Targeting active drug users, the partnership has intersected those still taking drugs as opposed to waiting for them to go into recovery programmes or stop themselves.

This approach aims to proactively prevent the virus from passing onto the next user and breaks the chain earlier.

Testing across NHS Tayside showed some 1970 people had hepatitis C when testing began, now upwards of 1800 have been treated.

Professor John Dillon added: “However, our view was that with the right approach, supported with appropriate resources, we could tackle what is a very significant problem and reduce the rates of hepatitis C infection.

“If you can offer treatment at a very early stage, while people who are infected are still actively injecting, when they have contact with other people who inject and share equipment with other people, their chances of transmission disappear because they’re not infected any more.

“It’s the idea of treatment as prevention.”

Only in 2012 did the University of Dundee investigate elimination of Hepatitis C was possible, now eight years later this target has been reached.

NHS Tayside and partners attribute their success to the cooperation between each organisation.

Grant Archibald, director of NHS Tayside, said: “This project is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through our partnership with Dundee University.

“It has helped Tayside to be first in the world to eliminate this infection and develop this pioneering approach to treating people with hepatitis C.

“Meeting both of these targets so far ahead of schedule will make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people in Tayside.”

Chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, Rachel Halford, also said: “Getting such a high proportion of people treated is a huge achievement by NHS Tayside.

“People who inject drugs often struggle to access treatment due to barriers like stigma around the virus and drug use.

“NHS Tayside has shown that it doesn’t have to be this way and that everyone can be treated for this virus.

“No one is ‘untreatable’. If services adapt to patients, everyone can clear the virus and we can make sure we leave no one behind.”

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