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Despite the availability of effective and well-tolerated direct acting antivirals (DAAs) against hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, a substantial number of HCV patients remain untreated. Novel strategies targeting HCV patients with poor adherence are urgently needed to enable HCV elimination.
We implemented a physician-operated HCV hotline (HCV-Phone) that was promoted within the patient community and referral networks. Previously diagnosed HCV patients were contacted via the HCV-Phone and offered low-barrier access to DAA therapy. Patients/referring physicians could directly call or send messages to the HCV-Phone. The HCV-Phone related and unrelated visits as well as DAA treatment initiations throughout 2019 were documented. Patients were followed until October 2020. This study analyzed treatment initiation, adherence to scheduled visits and outcomes in patients in whom management was assisted by the HCV-Phone.
Out of 98 patient contacts via the HCV-Phone 74 attended treatment assessment at our clinic. While 15 (20%) patients were HCV-RNA negative and 1 (1%) patient did not initiate therapy, 58 patients were recruited for DAA therapy via the HCV-Phone. A total of 21 additional patients who started DAAs without HCV-Phone assistance required the use of the HCV-Phone infrastructure later on during treatment, resulting in a total of 79 HCV-Phone related DAA therapies. The poor adherence of patients previously diagnosed with HCV at our clinic is underlined by the long duration from HCV diagnosis to DAA therapy of median 37.0 months (IQR 2.7–181.1 months). A total of 55 (70%) HCV patients achieved a sustained virological response (SVR), 5 (6%) discontinued therapy, 1 (1%) had a reinfection, while 10 (13%) and 8 (10%) patients were lost during DAA therapy or follow-up, respectively.
The implementation of a physician-operated phone hotline for patients with HCV infection facilitated treatment initiation in an HCV population with poor adherence. Mainly due to losses to follow-up, the SVR rate remained suboptimal with 70%.