Study in progress amid observance of May as Hepatitis Awareness Month, and of May 19 as Hepatitis Testing Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Arlington, Va. – As public health authorities target Hepatitis C awareness as a way to prevent liver damage and liver cancer, a study funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation is evaluating a model which may provide patients with increased access to the requisite Hepatitis C testing and link patients to a specialized physician or health department as needed for further care.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is serving on the research team for the NACDS Foundation’s study, and other key public health agencies also are partnering on the study. This initiative reflects the priority that the CDC is placing on improving access and awareness regarding Hepatitis C testing, as symbolized by the recognition of May as Hepatitis Awareness Month, and of May 19 as Hepatitis Testing Day.
The NACDS Foundation study currently is underway in 50 stores with pharmacies, and a total of 75 locations are planned in the greater Detroit, MI; West Virginia/Ohio; and Atlanta, GA metropolitan areas. The study is designed to evaluate the impact of expanding access to community testing for Hepatitis C virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
“This study is ideal for the NACDS Foundation, as it focuses on an identified public health need to improve access to testing and care, and on a topic that requires partnership and collaboration,” said NACDS President Kathleen Jaeger. “This evidence-based research on Hepatitis C and HIV builds on the NACDS Foundation’s prior and ongoing study of point-of-care testing for flu and strep throat.”
While anyone can become infected with Hepatitis C, people born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely to do so. With that in mind, in 2013 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of national experts, recommended a one-time screening for adults in that age group, in addition to screening for others at high risk for infection.
Over time, Hepatitis C can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. It is the leading cause of liver cancer and of liver transplants. Testing is important, as most people who have Hepatitis C are unaware because symptoms do not develop immediately.
Patients who seek care in participating stores are counseled by trained pharmacists on risk factors and prevention, and those with reactive tests are referred to a physician or health department for confirmatory testing.
The study will evaluate the ability of this model to increase patient screenings and link them to additional care as needed. It will evaluate the number of patients screened, their demographics and test results. For patients with reactive tests, the rates of linkage to care and treatment will be assessed. The study also will identify barriers to follow-up care.
The study is expected to conclude in March 2017.
More information about the NACDS Foundation and its focus on evidence-based research through strategic partnerships is available at NACDSFoundation.org.
The NACDS Foundation encourages efforts to raise awareness of Hepatitis Awareness Month and of Hepatitis Testing Day through the use of #HepAware on social media.
(Original press release from The NACDS Foundation)