Background & Aims Hepatitis C virus antiviral treatment is effective for individual patients but few active injecting drug users are treated. We considered the utility of antiviral treatment for primary prevention of hepatitis C. Methods A hepatitis C transmission model among injecting drug users was developed, incorporating treatment (62.5% average sustained viral response) with no re-treatment after initial treatment failure, potential re-infection for those cured, equal genotype setting (genotype 1:genotype 2/3), and no immunity. In addition, we examined scenarios with varied treatment response rates, immunity, or re-treatment of treatment failures. Results In the baseline scenario, annually treating 10 infections per 1000 injecting drug users results in a relative decrease in hepatitis C prevalence over 10 years of 31%, 13%, or 7% for baseline (untreated endemic chronic infection) prevalences of 20%, 40%, or 60%, respectively. Sensitivity analyses show that including the potential for immunity has minimal effect on the predictions; prevalence reductions remain even if SVR is assumed to be 25% lower among active IDU than current evidence suggests; re-treatment of treatment failures does not alter the short-term (<5 years) projections, but does increase treatment gains within 20 years; hepatitis C free life years gained from treating active injecting drug users are projected to be higher than from treating non-injecting drug users for prevalence's below 60%. Conclusions Despite the possibility of re-infection, modest rates of hepatitis C treatment among active injecting drug users could effectively reduce transmission. Evaluating and extending strategies to treat hepatitis C among active injectors are warranted.
- mathematical model