Needle and syringe programs are a highly effective, low-cost intervention to reduce hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission, according to a study published in Addiction.1

HCV is a global public health issue, with most new infections occurring in people who inject drugs.2-5 Needle and syringe programs are the primary intervention used for reducing the transmission of blood-borne viruses among injection drug users. Although previous research has demonstrated that needle and syringe programs are a cost-effective intervention to reduce the incidence of HIV,6-13 there are few studies evaluating the same phenomena in HCV.7,14 

Therefore, researchers evaluated the cost-efficacy of current needle and syringe programs on the transmission and disease burden of HCV in 3 areas in the United Kingdom and compared it with a counterfactual scenario where needle and syringe programs are removed for 10 years and then returned to existing levels with effects collected for 40 years.1

Researchers found that needle and syringe programs were highly cost-effective over a time-horizon of 50 years and that they decreased the number of HCV incident infections. More than 90% of simulations were cost-effective at the willingness-to-pay threshold and the results were robust to sensitivity analyses including varying the time-horizon, HCV treatment cost, and numbers of HCV treatments per year. In addition, the results demonstrated that a median of 84 to 199 infections, and 2 to 20 deaths in each area would be averted by continuing needle and syringe programs

“Needle and syringe programmes are a highly effective low-cost intervention to reduce hepatitis C virus transmission, and in some settings, they are cost-saving,” concluded the study authors.1 They added that, “Needle and syringe programmes are likely to remain cost-effective irrespective of changes in hepatitis C virus treatment cost and scale-up.”

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