Telemedicine Programs Improve Cure Rates for Hepatitis C vs. Specialist Referral


In a clinical trial conducted by Dr. Talal and his colleagues, the team compared hepatitis C response rates for 602 patients with opioid use disorders. The trials took place within New York State in 12 OTPs beginning in 2017 through 2020. Participants included 290 patients in a group receiving telemedicine to treat hepatitis C. The second group consisted of 312 patients who were referred to a hepatitis specialist. The average age for both groups was 48 years. Programs for both groups began with a standard referral. Then every nine months, four sites were transitioned to telemedicine, but the patients did not crossover to that site.

The Primary Outcome

The anticipated primary outcome was an HCV cure while the secondary outcomes were:
• Treatment initiation
• Rates of completion with antivirals
• The patient’s satisfaction
• Adherence to treatment

HCV reinfection was also reported. Rates of completion for the initial visit were similar for the telemedicine cohort (96.6%) and for the referral group (95.2%). However, the outcome showed a wide divergence for treatment with a newer class of drugs to treat Hepatitis C called DAAs (92.4% vs 40.4%).

Patients who were assigned to the telemedicine group were found to have a shorter time for screening and their first appointments when compared to the referral group. (14 days compared to 18 days). The lapsed time between the patient’s initial appointments and their subsequent appointments was significant. (49.9 vs. 123.5 days).

The 95% decrease in patients using illicit drugs was significant in both groups. Also, the researchers reported only 13 reinfections. Both groups reported either “high or very high” satisfaction with their health care. Dr. Talal and his colleagues concluded their report stating that telemedicine demonstrated a higher virologic response than offsite referrals.

Learn more about this study, which was originally published in JAMA, here.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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