Cost-effectiveness of HCV case-finding for people who inject drugs via dried blood spot testing in specialist addiction services and prisons

Natasha K. Martin, Matthew Hickman, Sharon J. Hutchinson, Alec Miners, Avril Taylor, Peter Vickerman

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Objectives: People who inject drugs (PWID) are at high risk for acquiring hepatitis C virus (HCV), but many are unaware of their infection. HCV dried blood spot (DBS) testing increases case-finding in addiction services and prisons. We determine the cost-effectiveness of increasing HCV case-finding among PWID by offering DBS testing in specialist addiction services or prisons as compared to using venepuncture. Design: Cost-utility analysis using a dynamic HCV transmission model among PWID, including: disease progression, diagnosis, treatment, injecting status, incarceration and addition services contact. Setting UK. Intervention: DBS testing in specialist addiction services or prisons. Intervention impact was determined by a meta-analysis of primary data. Primary and secondary outcome measures: Costs (in UK £, £1=US$1.60) and utilities (quality-adjusted life years, QALYs) were attached to each state and the incremental cost effectiveness ratio (ICER) determined. Multivariate uncertainty and one-way sensitivity analyses were performed. Results: For a £20 000 per QALY gained willingness-to-pay threshold, DBS testing in addiction services is cost-effective (ICER of £14 600 per QALY gained). Under the base-case assumption of no continuity of treatment/care when exiting/entering prison, DBS testing in prisons is not cost-effective (ICER of £59 400 per QALY gained). Results are robust to changes in HCV prevalence; increasing PWID treatment rates to those for ex-PWID considerably reduces ICER (£4500 and £30 000 per QALY gained for addiction services and prison, respectively). If continuity of care is >40%, the prison DBS ICER falls below £20 000 per QALY gained. Conclusions: Despite low PWID treatment rates, increasing case-finding can be cost-effective in specialist addiction services, and in prisons if continuity of treatment/care is ensured.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Medical Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • hepatitis C
  • PWID
  • DBS testing
  • cost-effectiveness
  • case study


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