The hepatitis C virus (HCV) will only be eliminated through successful engagement with people who inject drugs (PWID), however some of this population experience socioeconomic and individual issues that can lead to poor HCV treatment adherence. A key sub-group of (PWID) are those who receive opioid substitution therapy (OST). In Australia, OST is most often delivered under direct supervision by a community pharmacist every day or multiple times a week. This regular interaction could be an ideal opportunity to enhance direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment adherence under directly observed therapy (DOT) by the pharmacist.
The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of OST patients with a lived experience of HCV to understand whether or not dispensing DAAs in the same way as, or simultaneously with OST would benefit HCV treatment.
Data collection occurred from June to August 2017. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of PWID living with HCV and on OST programs (n = 12) in Melbourne, Australia. Interviews were voice recorded and transcribed in verbatim. Interpretive phenomenology guided analysis of the data.
Themes reported by participants that provide insight into the suitability of DOT of DAAs include: Adherence and non-adherence to DAA treatment; Mixed views towards DOT of DAAs; Experiences and perceptions of OST providers; and Perceived stigma in the pharmacy.
Community pharmacies offering OST may be an effective place for DOT of HCV treatment, but is likely only to benefit people who face significant challenges to adherence. We suggest that a positive pharmacist-patient relationship, high OST adherence, and commitment to reducing stigma in the pharmacy would be necessary for the intervention to be effective. Further research is needed to evaluate the expanded-role of community pharmacies in improving DAA adherence and eliminating HCV.