March 17 2017
The Pharmacist’s Role in Hepatitis C Elimination
Hepatitis C is a chronic condition for which a cure exists, but at a cost that is so high it often creates barriers to treatment. Even with the introduction of newer and more effective medications, cost-sharing mechanisms such as plan premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance created barriers to treatment. This has produced a large pool of patients infected with HCV who are willing but unable to access a cure.1 Removing the barrier of costs associated with Hepatitis C medications while supporting optimal treatment provision is one of the many important roles of a pharmacist.
Over the past decade, the role of a pharmacist in the elimination of hepatitis C has expanded. The “Action Plan for Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis 2014-2016” prepared by US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) identified pharmacists as key stakeholders in the continuum of care for those living with viral hepatitis.2 Pharmacists can work as an integral part of interdisciplinary teams that include prescribers, nurses, social workers, and insurance companies that collaborate in order to ensure the best outcomes for the patient.
I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with the End Hep C SF initiative while working as a pharmacist at Mission Wellness Pharmacy. My work varies from getting prior authorization on medications approved for patients, to working with prescribers on coordination of care, recommending alternative regimens based on cost-effectiveness and medication interactions, and counseling patients on importance of medication adherence. We have been able to help address concerns of non-adherence by talking to patients periodically about their meds and keeping track of their refills each week before they are due. Our Mission Wellness team also provides hepatitis C testing for patients using OraQuick Rapid tests and linkage to care referrals for any patients who test positive.
Seeing patients complete treatment and get cured has been one of the most rewarding experience in working as part of the End Hep C SF collaborative. We have had patients call us to let us know how their quality of life has improved and how they have become involved in their communities to fight hepatitis C. With positive results associated with treatment, some people with other co-morbid conditions have also become motivated to focus on their health in new ways, perhaps improving compliance with other medication regimens. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of End Hep C SF. The motivation, drive and positive energy from all members involved in the project makes me confident that we are not far from achieving our goal to eliminate hepatitis C.