Clinical effectiveness of pharmacy-led versus conventionally delivered antiviral treatment for hepatitis C in patients receiving opioid substitution therapy: a study protocol for a pragmatic cluster randomised trial

Andrew Radley, Marijn de Bruin, Sarah K Inglis, Peter T Donnan, John F Dillon

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INTRODUCTION: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects 0.7% of the general population, and up to 40% of people prescribed opioid substitution therapy (OST) in Scotland. In conventional care, less than 10% of OST users are tested for HCV and less than 25% of these initiate treatment. Community pharmacists see this group frequently to provide OST supervision. This study examines whether a pharmacist-led 'test & treat' pathway increases cure rates for HCV.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This protocol describes a cluster-randomised trial where 60 community pharmacies provide either conventional or pharmacy-led care. All pharmacies offer dried blood spot testing (DBST) for HCV. Participants have attended the pharmacy for OST for 3 months; are positive for HCV genotype 1 or 3; are not co-infected with HIV and/or hepatitis B; have no decompensated liver disease; are not pregnant. For conventional care, pharmacists refer HCV-positive participants to a local centre for assessment. In the pharmacy-led arm, pharmacists assess participants themselves in the pharmacy. Drug prescribing is by nurse prescribers (conventional arm) or pharmacist prescribers (pharmacy-led arm). Treatment in both arms is delivered as daily modified directly observed therapy in a pharmacy. Primary trial outcome is number of sustained virological responses at 12 weeks after treatment completion. Secondary trial outcomes are number of tests taken; treatment uptake; completion; adherence; re-infection. An economic evaluation will assess potential cost-effectiveness. Qualitative research interviews with clients and health professionals assess acceptability of a pharmacist-led pathway.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This protocol has been ethically approved by the East of Scotland Research Ethics Committee 2 (15/ES/0086) and complies with the Declaration of Helsinki and principles of Good Clinical Practice. Caldicott guardian approval was given on 16 December 2016 to allow NHS Tayside to pass information to the cluster community pharmacies about the HCV test status of patients that they are seeing to provide OST supervision. NHS R&D approvals have been obtained from each health board taking part in the study. Informed consent is obtained before study enrolment and only anonymised data are stored in a secured database, enabling an audit trail. Results will be submitted to international peer-reviewed journals and presented at international conferences.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere021443
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2018


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