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  1. ~lostgurl~
    www.nzherald.co.nz

    Methadone programme to halt hepatitis C spread

    04.01.05
    NZPA

    Methadone maintenance therapy for injecting drug users saves lives and is a cost-effective way of treating New Zealand's growing and expensive hepatitis C health problem, researchers say.

    Policies aimed at controlling the spread of the debilitating hepatitis C virus were needed urgently, lead investigator Dr Ian Sheerin from Otago University's Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences said in a statement today.

    Of an estimated 19,000 injecting drug users in the country, 84 per cent had hepatitis C, but few of whom were receiving treatment for the virus, the statement said.
    Nationally 30,000 people were estimated to have the virus, a figure expected to double by 2010.

    Dr Sheerin, from the school's department of public health and general practice, said if the virus spread it would have rapidly escalating health and social welfare costs as sufferers became more debilitated, needed constant health care, and their livers failed.

    Those costs had been estimated to rise to between $166 million and $400 million over the next 30 years unless adequate treatment and disease control was provided, he said.

    It made more sense to invest in hepatitis C treatment at an early stage, than wait until people needed a liver transplant.

    "There's a tendency in New Zealand to see this as just a drug users' problem, therefore why worry. That's ignoring the fact that hepatitis C is a growing and expensive health issue, which won't go away," Dr Sheerin said.

    "The existence of a large pool of untreated infectious disease is a potential threat to everyone."

    Because the hepatitis C virus was slow in its progression, there had been limited recognition of it as a public health issue and New Zealand was losing ground by about 1300 new infections every year.

    The Christchurch school's research found that excess mortality from drug overdoses was reduced by 75 per cent among people on methadone maintenance.

    Ninety-eight per cent of the participants stopped injecting drugs, reported large improvements in their health and also reductions in drug-related crime, the statement said.

    There was evidence large numbers of drug users wanted treatment for hepatitis C, but did not get it. Meanwhile, there were also long waiting lists for methadone maintenance treatment.

    Dr Sheerin said policies aimed at controlling the spread of the hepatitis C virus should include needle exchanges, education about risky behaviours, blood awareness, access to drug and alcohol services, as well as hepatitis C treatment.

    "The size of the health problem is not being matched by government investment in communicable disease control. The policy documents say the right things, but the commitment has not been made to address the issue adequately," he said.

    The Government had taken an important step in 2004 when it funded combination medication for hepatitis C, which had been found to be effective, curing 80 per cent of cases of some types of the virus.

    Although hepatitis C medication was expensive, the courses were short and would prevent 39 per cent of future health costs.

    - NZPA

Comments

  1. adzket
    you dont need to put people on methidone to stop hep c spreding i am a herion addict curently on a methidone program and am hep c positive what you need is beter education that you can get these desises from injecting drugs and shereing needles ect and also you need beter acsess to free and clean needles and eqwipment. in the uk we have alot of nedel exscange programs now for people to do this but on a resent trip to london i had no clean needles and so went to the hospital they point blank refused to help me meaning i had to use one i had already used this is wrong even though it was one of my own what if i did not have ne i would of used someone elses. i did not want to have prority treatment be sean quicker than other people or ne thing i would of even payed for them but no. no help at all. this is why hep c spreads becase when an addict needs a hit if they have no clean pins and can not get ne they will likely put there lives at risk and use a dirty one from someone or somewhere they have no idea if they are at risk or not. also hep c can be cured with cemotheripy but alot of hep c infected do not know this as they are not told and doctors in some places are not well informed about this option them selfs i am waiting to have cemo my self and hopefull after 6 months of hell i will be well again and not have to wory about what hep c will do to me in the futer.evern though it is now curable i am not saying ne 1 should take a risk as it just not wroth it and you can catch other things to which are not.
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