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Hepatitis C screening in pharmacies

18th August 2010

Experts believe pharmacy screening for hepatitis C could help identify thousands of people with the virus.

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New evidence has shown that a pilot screening scheme in 19 pharmacies has identified a significantly higher rate of people with the virus than those picked up by GPs.

With some 500,000 people in the UK unaware they have the condition, the pilot scheme could help undiagnosed sufferers receive treatment.

Following the trial, which saw one in six people tested highlighted as positive for hepatitis C, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Hepatitis C Trust said the results show the need for wider screening.

Hepatitis C can be transmitted through infected blood and can cause serious liver disease and liver cancer but many people carry the disease for years with no symptoms.

The results involved pharmacies offering the test to patients identified as being at risk. From 234 tests carried out, 35 people were diagnosed with hepatitis C (15% of tests) and four people with hepatitis B. In GP surgeries, 4% of targeted tests find positive hepatitis C patients and 2% of find hepatitis B patients.

Hepatitis C Trust chief executive Charles Gore said it was a tragedy that increasing numbers of people with hepatitis were dying after living with the virus for years but could have been given treatment at any point, if they had been diagnosed.

He said new approaches to testing were needed and the pilot study may have found a solution.

The Department of Health welcomed pharmacies and local NHS organisations working together over hepatitis C.

 

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