Pharmacy team helps patients better understand importance of adherence while on complex medication regimens.
More than two-thirds of patients with hepatitis C achieved sustained virologic response (SVR) or cure after completing newer "triple therapy" treatment, according to a Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy study.1 On National Hepatitis Testing Day, May 19, the encouraging results are a reminder of the importance of getting tested.
Of the more than 3 million Americans with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), most do not realize they are infected because symptoms may not appear for decades.2 Untreated, HCV can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer or even death. People born between 1945 and 1965 account for approximately three-fourths of all HCV infections.3 Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone born during those years be tested once, even if they don't have other risk factors.
Two years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two new protease inhibitors, telaprevir and boceprevir, which help prevent the virus from reproducing. When used in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin, the new medications significantly increased the cure rate and cut treatment time in half.4,5 Typically taken for 24 weeks or longer, the triple therapy regimen can cause significant side effects.
Even though the therapy may be life-saving, many patients have a difficult time completing the treatment due to the side effects and because they usually don't feel sick when they have HCV. This makes pharmacist follow-up and support particularly important.
All patients who receive their HCV medications through Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy are included in the ConnectedCare program, which provides pharmacist-led support and guidance to help patients complete therapy. ConnectedCare features extensive patient education, screening for potential health concerns including anemia and depression, regular medication counseling, awareness of possible insurance and financial assistance options and round-the-clock access to pharmacists.
"Our pharmacists and staff work diligently to help assess barriers to adherence and concerns associated with this condition," said Richard T. Miller, RPh, MBA, director of clinical services for Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy. "As integral members of our patient's health care team, we are committed to providing ongoing support and education."
The Walgreens study included 406 HCV patients who received triple therapy with either telaprevir or boceprevir.1 Six months after completion of the treatment, 272 patients (67%) achieved SVR. Additionally, the adherence rate was above 90% for all of the medications. Adherence is measured as medication possession ratio (MPR), which tracks whether the patient received the medication.
Before the FDA approved the new medications, patients with HCV-1 (the most common genotype) were prescribed dual therapy with peginterferon and ribavirin for 48 weeks, resulting in an SVR rate of 38% to 46%.4-5
Hepatitis C Testing Events
HCV infection often progresses slowly, causing liver damage without symptoms. HCV is the leading reason for liver transplantation and the main cause of liver cancer, which is why it should be identified early, when it often is treatable.2
Free HCV testing will be provided by OraSure Technologies, Inc and the Chronic Liver Disease Foundation in select Walgreens locations across 11 states in support of National Hepatitis Testing Day. For more information, visit http://www.testhepc.com/Walgreens <http://www.testhepc.com/Walgreens> .
About Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy
Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy is a national provider of injectable, infused and biopharmaceutical medications dedicated to serving the needs of patients living with complex, chronic health and medical conditions. Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy provides personalized care and services through dedicated fulfillment centers across the country and electronically linked Walgreens pharmacies, including locations in academic medical centers, community hospitals and physician office buildings. Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy assists patients in obtaining medications, coordinates insurance benefits and provides individualized therapy management and clinical support.
As the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2012 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) vision is to become America's first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides more than 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services help improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 8,086 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.
1. Fritz S, Craft Z, Koerner P and Miller R. Therapeutic response of triple drug therapy in hepatitis C infection. Presented April 4, 2013 at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy's 25th Annual Meeting & Expo, San Diego.
2. Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public. CDC. Updated Oct. 22, 2012. Accessed May 6, 2013 at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm.
3. Smith B, Morgan R, Beckett G, et al. Recommendations for the identification of chronic hepatitis c virus infection among persons born during 1945-1965. MMWR. Aug. 17, 2012. Accessed May 6, 2013 at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6104a1.htm?s-cid_rr6104a1_w <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6104a1.htm?s-cid_rr6104a1_w>
4. Poordad F, McCone J Jr, Bacon B, et al. Boceprevir for untreated chronic HCV genotype 1 infection. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(13):1195-206.
5. McHutchison J, Everson G, Gordon S, et al. Telaprevir with peginterferon and ribavirin for chronic HCV genotype 1 infection. N Engl J Med. 2009;361(15):1516.