Medication Assisted Treatment Reduces HCV Incidence in Young Adult Injection Drug Users
November 25, 2014
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is primarily transmitted through injection drug use, and prior research has suggested that providing medication assisted treatment (MAT), using opioid agonists (buprenorphine or methadone), to treat opioid use disorders in adult injection drug users helps impede the spread of HCV in this population. But less is known about the effectiveness of this approach in young adult injection drug users, a quarter of whom are expected to become infected with HCV within 2 years, driving the spread of the HCV epidemic. A NIDA-funded study starting in 2000 followed three waves of initially HCV-negative young adult injection drug users in San Francisco over several months and found results similar to what has been found in other populations: that those receiving maintenance therapy with opioid agonists had more than 60 percent lower incidence of HCV infection than those not receiving treatment; other forms of treatment, including detoxification, were not associated with such reductions. It is believed that MAT reduces the frequency of injection, thereby lowering the risk of contracting not only HCV but also HIV and other blood-borne infections. These findings support extending the “treatment as prevention” approach to young adult injection drug users by expanding access to MAT to this group.