Hepatitis C screening in community pharmacies

 12 March 2020

‘Thanks so much, this test was easy’ G. said after being tested for Hepatitis C (HCV) at a three-hour pilot event held at a Pharmacy in Newtown.

Community pharmacies could play an instrumental role in achieving NSW’s goal of eliminating HCV by 2028. Pharmacies that offer the Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) and/or Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) are a potential point of contact to offer opportunistic HCV testing to people who have a history of or currently inject drugs. This cohort faces many barriers to accessing mainstream services for HCV testing and treatment, therefore community pharmacies are an important access point to engage with this population.

The HIV and Related Programs (HARP) team, in collaboration with RPA Hospital outreach Liver team from Sydney Local Health District, coordinated a successful pop-up-style event at a pharmacy in Newtown.  In total, 15 clients were tested (13 by Dried Blood Spot (DBS) and two by venepuncture).  A client with untreated HCV was identified and initiated treatment shortly after.  DBS is a free finger prick test for HIV and HCV (See: https://www.dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au/).

In addition to clinical services provided, the targeted population had the chance to engage with: (a) a peer who has first-hand experience of living with HCV and completing treatment; and (b) health promotion officers who can provide up-to-date resources about HCV/HIV prevention, screening and treatments. A $20 Coles gift card was offered to clients who engaged with the Nurse Practitioner.

The pharmacy’s staff were motivated and enthusiastic around the project and provided great feedback.

From our experience, HCV focused events in pharmacies are effective both for raising community awareness, engaging and testing community members at higher risk of HCV and we plan to roll out to pharmacies in other SLHD suburbs. Our findings are supported by evidence from the United Kingdom showing a community care pathway is likely to increase treatment uptake and therefore reduce the prevalence of HCV.

For more information please contact:

Ana Romero
Health Promotion Officer | SLHD HIV and Related Programs (HARP) Unit