F3. Hepatitis C
Oral Abstract Submission
Background : The main driver of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemic in most western countries is injection drug use (IDU) among people who inject drugs (PWID). Iceland has provided unrestricted access to direct acting antiviral agents (DAA) to all HCV-infected patients in the country covered by national health insurance, by a program entitled Treatment as Prevention for Hepatitis C (TraP HepC) from 2016 and is on track to become among the first to achieve the WHO goals of eliminating HCV as a public health threat.
Methods : We analysed data regarding testing for HCV, incidence of IDU, prevalence of HCV viremia among PWID, drug use in the community and trends in homelessness prior to and during the first 24 months of TraP HepC to monitor outcomes and identify new or persistent challenges.
Results : Intensity of nationwide testing for HCV increased by 22% in 2016, 60% in 2017 and 81% in 2018 compared to previous years (p < 0.001). During 2016-2018 the incidence of new injection drug use, as surveyed among those admitted for addiction treatment increased by 48%. The total number of PWID admitted annually with HCV viremia however remained relatively stable during the entire period (2010-2018). The prevalence of HCV viremia among people recently injecting drugs admitted for addiction treatment however dropped from 48.7% to 16.2% in 2017, and to 10.2% in 2018 (p < 0.001). Analysis of data regarding stimulant use, as measured by drug levels in wastewater shows almost threefold increase of amphetamine and eightfold increase in cocaine levels during 2016-2018 compared to 2015. Concurrently, the number of homeless has doubled. Two years into TraP HepC > 80% of the estimated total HCV-infected population were started on their first course of DAAs. By intention to treat analysis, the cure rate was 92.4% among patients without history of IDU in the past 6 months, compared to 82.9% among active IDU (p=0.0006); those with history of recent IDU were more likely to discontinue (p < 0.0001). Homelessness carried the highest relative risk (RR) of treatment failure (RR=2.4, p=0.008), mostly due to discontinuation.
Conclusion : Iceland is on track to eliminate HCV, but challenges such as increasing drug use in the community and homelessness need to continuously monitored and addressed; they may jeopardize the success of elimination efforts.