July 19, 2001 -- Illegal Drug Users
Need/Deserve Treatment for Hepatitis C
University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) researchers
are recommending that illicit drug users should be eligible to
receive treatment for the hepatitis C virus. The
recommendation, published in the July 19 issue of The New
England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), differs from
the 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus
Statement on the Management of Hepatitis C. This recommends
that people using illicit drugs be denied treatment for
hepatitis C until they have stopped drug use for at least six
months. The researchers noted that drug users are the source
of most hepatitis C transmission in the United States.
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that is readily transmitted
through contaminated needles and syringes. "Controlling
hepatitis C will require providing treatment to people who use
illegal drugs. We believe that when treatment is guided by
evidence, tolerance, and compassion, this can be done,"
said Brian R. Edlin, MD, director of Urban Health Study in the
UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine and the
Institute for Health Policy Studies. Dr. Edlin is lead author
of the article.