NSHA researchers granted $1.4M for work toward elimination of Hepatitis C in Nova Scotia

Dr. Lisa Barrett with Dr. Sharon Olford
Dr. Lisa Barrett, left, reviews data with colleague

Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) researchers at the QEII Health Sciences Centre have received a $1.4 million grant towards eliminating the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the province. The grant, from Gilead Sciences Inc., SCALE (SCreening Access and Linkage to carE) program, supports a project initiated and led by principal investigator Dr. Lisa Barrett.

“Our research will help focus local efforts and bring us closer to the World Health Organization’s target of eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public threat by 2030,” said Dr. Barrett. “It is important that we involve not only decision makers but we are engaging patients in the plan as well.”

“Over the last year, we’ve made significant progress on reducing HCV infections in Nova Scotia – from investments in harm reduction, to expanded Pharmacare coverage, to improved access to treatment,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “Together with research like this, these actions will lead to a significant, long-term reduction in hepatitis C in the province.” 

The research project, “Assessing a model for hepatitis C elimination: Measuring patient and health system outcomes after structured interventions to increase access to care”, is taking a two-pronged approach to gather data about the feasibility of a provincially-coordinated HCV elimination program. The first step is getting a rapid HCV test into community clinics. 

The second intervention is an education program targeted to community-based family practice and addictions health providers. Researchers will measure patient and provider satisfaction, as well as health system outcomes, and compare them to the historical benchmarks.

“This research will guide and support our efforts to eliminate HCV in Nova Scotia,” said Tim Guest, vice-president, integrated health services program care & chief nursing officer at NSHA.

In Nova Scotia, the rate of HCV cases per 100,000 people sits at 34.42  (2014 data), well above the national rate of 29.551 (2013 data), following an upward trend over the last five years. In Canada, about 246,000 people are estimated to be living with HCV; 44 per cent of those may not be aware of their status1. 

Gilead supports the efforts of academic institutions, clinical investigators and research networks to help inform the scientific community about the impact of HCV on patients and the health care system. Through the SCALE program specifically, Gilead intends to support investigators focused on addressing the challenges associated with HCV screening, access and linkage to care for individuals infected with HCV.

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1. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/hepatitis-c/surveillance-hepatitis-c.html 
2. https://data.novascotia.ca/Health-and-Wellness/Notifiable-Diseases-Counts-and-Rates-2005-2016/mdfn-jkdg  

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