Drink and Drugs News DDN May 2019 - Page 4

News NHS ‘WORLD LEADING DEAL’ TO HELP ELIMINATE HEP C THE NHS WILL BE ABLE TO ‘FIND AND CURE TENS OF THOUSANDS’ more people with hepatitis C as part of a landmark deal with three drug companies, it has announced. The deal will see the NHS work with Gilead Sciences, AbbVie and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) to proactively identify and treat people who may be unaware they have the virus. More than 30,000 people have already been treated with effective new hep C drugs in recent years, but the deal will see the companies provide them at the ‘best price for the NHS and taxpayers’ as well as launch initiatives to find and test potential patients and treat those who need it. Reducing health inequalities is a key part of the new NHS long term plan (DDN, February, page 5), and the deal will help provide services to isolated and hard-to-reach communities such as the homeless, those with mental health issues and other high-risk groups, says the NHS. ‘The Hepatitis C Trust is delighted with this development – 69 per cent of people who have the virus are currently undiagnosed so the funding in the deal to help find those with hepatitis C and support them into treatment is groundbreaking,’ said Hepatitis C Trust chief executive Rachel Halford. ‘We believe this deal offers a unique opportunity for all stakeholders – patient organisations, pharmaceutical companies, clinicians, prison healthcare and drug misuse services – to work together to reach all those affected. By making sure we reach the most marginalised and hardest to engage we will ensure that no one is left behind and stop unnecessary deaths.’ It was ‘not often that the opportunity arises to completely eradicate a disease, but now the NHS is taking practical action to achieve exactly that,’ added NHS chief executive Simon Stevens. ‘The NHS’s sophisticated and unashamedly rigorous negotiation on behalf of both patients and taxpayers means we’ve now been able to strike affordable deals with our life sciences partners to save many more lives and meaningfully cut health inequalities’. Deaths from hepatitis C related liver disease fell by 16 per cent between 2015 and 2017, from 380 to 319, according to the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE). While this puts England ahead of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of reducing deaths by 10 per cent by 2020, around 113,000 people in England are estimated to be living with chronic hep C, with up to 79,000 of them undiagnosed. Improved access to new treatments has also led to a fall in the number of people needing liver transplants, however, with a 53 per cent ‘This deal offers a unique opportunity for all stakeholders’ Rachel halfoRd drop to a ten-year low of just 63. The new treatments have a cure rate of around 95 per cent, says PHE. Injecting drug use continues to be the most important risk factor for infection, being ‘cited as the risk in around 90 per cent of all laboratory reports where risk factors have been disclosed’. However, transmission rates among ‘recent initiates’ to injecting drug use remain relatively stable, states PHE, with infection prevalence standing at 23 per cent in 2017 compared to 20 per cent in 2011. NHS long term plan at www.longtermplan.nhs.uk Hepatitis C in England 2019: working to eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat at www.gov.uk PRISON PRIORITIES A NEW PRISON DRUGS STRATEGY has been published by the Ministry of Justice, outlining a ‘co-ordinated response’ to deal with record levels of drug-related violence and with the objectives of restricting supply, reducing demand and building recovery. Developing ‘more meaningful regimes’, providing constructive ways for prisoners to spend their time and working closely with health and justice partners will help achieve the last two, the strategy states. 4 | drinkanddrugsnews | May 2019 While the document was a ‘good start’, it was important to ensure that the ‘people who can make it work are empowered to deliver it’, said Phoenix Futures chief executive Karen Biggs. ‘Until we as a society accept there are vulnerable people in prison and they deserve the very best care, support and treatment services, I fear we will still be struggling to make the most of the opportunity for rehabilitation that prison offers.’ National prison drugs strategy at www.gov.uk CHEMIST CHECKS ONLINE PHARMACIES will need to have ‘robust processes’ in place to carry out identity checks and prevent multiple orders to the same address or using the same payment details, says updated guidance from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Additional safeguards will also need to be in place for any medicines liable to ‘abuse, overuse or misuse’ such as opiates, sedatives, pregabalin or gabapentin. ‘We support pharmacy services being provided in innovative ways, including online, as long as the services are safe and effective for people,’ said GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin. ‘But providing pharmacy services online carries particular risks which need to be successfully managed. People can be put at serious risk if they are able to obtain medicines that are not appropriate for them.’ Guidance for registered pharmacies providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet at www.pharmacyregulation.org PEER PRESSURE THE LARGEST EVER TRIAL of peer-led drug prevention programmes in schools is being conducted across South Wales and the west of England by researchers at Cardiff and Bristol universities. More than 5,600 students across 48 schools are involved in the three-year FRANK Friends pilot, which will see year 9 students asked to nominate the classmates they feel are the most influential. The top 17.5 per cent will then be invited to become peer supporters and given training in how to talk to fellow students about the potential harms of drug use. The schools will be randomly split into two groups of 24, with one group running the scheme and the other not, and researchers collecting information on drug use to evaluate the project’s effectiveness. ‘There is limited evidence that drug prevention interventions are effective,’ said study lead Dr James White. ‘Schools provide a systematic and efficient way of reaching a large number of people every year.’ It is important that the ‘people who can make it work are empowered to deliver it’. KaRen BIggs www.drinkanddrugsnews.com