Direct-Acting Antiviral Therapy Outcomes in Canadian Chronic Hepatitis C Telemedicine Patients

2017 Annals of Hepatology 16;6 (874-880)

INTRODUCTION: Many of the 300,000 HCV-infected Canadians live in under-served and remote areas without access to HCV healthcare specialists. Telemedicine (TM) and advances in HCV management can facilitate linkage of these marginalized patients to healthcare. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A cohort database analysis was performed on patients followed at The Ottawa Hospital and Regional Viral Hepatitis Program between January 2012 and August 2016. We compared patient characteristics, fibrosis work-up and antiviral treatment outcomes in TM (n = 157) and non-TM (n = 1,130) patients (The Ottawa Hospital Viral Hepatitis Outpatient Clinic) residing in Eastern Ontario. RESULTS: TM patients were more often infected with genotype 3 (25.9% vs. 16.4%), were more commonly Indigenous (7.0% vs. 2.2%) had a history of injection drug use (70.1% vs. 54.9%) and incarceration (46.5% vs 35.5%). Groups were comparable in age (48.9 years), gender (63.7% male) and cirrhotic stage (24.0%). 59.2% of TM patients underwent transient elastography during regional outreach blitzes compared to 61.8% of non-TM patients (p = 0.54). Overall, half as many TM patients initiated antiviral therapy as non-TM patients (27.4% vs. 53.8%, p < 0.001). The introduction of DAA regimens is bridging this gap (22.2% of TM patients vs. 34.3% of non-TM patients). SVR rates with interferon-free, DAA regimens were 94.7% and 94.8% in TM and non-TM groups (p = 0.99). CONCLUSION: Our TM program engages and retains a population that faces many barriers to effective HCV treatment. TM patients initiated HCV therapy and achieved High SVR rates comparable to those obtained using traditional models of care.