GPs should test more patients for hepatitis C and even treat patients once diagnosed to improve management of the disease, leading experts in the field have said.
Researchers reported at the International Liver Congress in London that tripling diagnosis and treatment rates could ‘virtually eliminate’ hepatitis C in the UK by 2030.
The team, led by Professor William Rosenberg, from University College London, said this would involve increasing the number of treatable people four-fold, by upping diagnosis rates 2.7 fold through ‘the development of specific case find strategies’.
As part of this, GPs could be called on to test more patients falling into key risk groups as well as potentially opportunistically testing those in less obviously at-risk groups, an approach being adopted in the USA for the ‘baby boomer’ generation with the introduction of simple finger-prick tests.
The Hepatitis C Trust said NHS England and Public Health England needed to ‘set a clear goal of eliminating hepatitis C within the next 15 years and should set out joint plans for achieving this goal’.
The call coincided with the launch of new guidance on diagnosing and managing hepatitis C from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which said GPs should take on treatment of the disease.
It said: ‘Currently, HCV [hepatitis C virus] therapy is provided in specialised centers by hepatologists or other subspecialists.
‘For HCV therapy to be expanded, it will need to be administered by general-practice physicians and other health care workers in primary-care clinics.’