November 22, 2013

Hepatitis C, mental health and equity of access to antiviral therapy: a systematic narrative review

International Journal for Equity in Health 2013, 12:92  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-92


Julie Hepworth, Tanya Bain and Mieke van Driel

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Published: 18 November 2013

Abstract (provisional)


Access to hepatitis C (hereafter HCV) antiviral therapy has commonly excluded populations with mental health and substance use disorders because they were considered as having contraindications to treatment, particularly due to the neuropsychiatric effects of interferon that can occur in some patients. In this review we examined access to HCV interferon antiviral therapy by populations with mental health and substance use problems to identify the evidence and reasons for exclusion.


We searched the following major electronic databases for relevant articles: PsycINFO, Medline, CINAHL, Scopus, Google Scholar. The inclusion criteria comprised studies of adults aged 18 years and older, peer-reviewed articles, date range of (2002--2012) to include articles since the introduction of pegylated interferon with ribarvirin, and English language. The exclusion criteria included articles about HCV populations with medical co-morbidities, such as hepatitis B (hereafter HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (hereafter HIV), because the clinical treatment, pathways and psychosocial morbidity differ from populations with only HCV. We identified 182 articles, and of these 13 met the eligibility criteria. Using an approach of systematic narrative review we identified major themes in the literature.


Three main themes were identified including: (1) pre-treatment and preparation for antiviral therapy, (2) adherence and treatment completion, and (3) clinical outcomes. Each of these themes was critically discussed in terms of access by patients with mental health and substance use co-morbidities demonstrating that current research evidence clearly demonstrates that people with HCV, mental health and substance use co-morbidities have similar clinical outcomes to those without these co-morbidities.


While research evidence is largely supportive of increased access to interferon by people with HCV, mental health and substance use co-morbidities, there is substantial further work required to translate evidence into clinical practice. Further to this, we conclude that a reconsideration of the appropriateness of the tertiary health service model of care for interferon management is required and exploration of the potential for increased HCV care in primary health care settings.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.


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