A Comparison of Currently Available Direct-Acting Antiviral Hepatitis C Virus Therapy in Canada: On the Path to Elimination - European Medical Journal

A Comparison of Currently Available Direct-Acting Antiviral Hepatitis C Virus Therapy in Canada: On the Path to Elimination

3 Mins
*Julie Holeksa, Arshia Alimohammadi, Tianna Magel, David Truong, Astou Thiam, Rossitta Yung, Letitia Chu, Brian Conway

The Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre (VIDC) is partly supported by Merck & Co, Gilead Sciences, and AbbVie. This analysis was conducted as part of the VIDC’s overall research program and no funding was specifically dedicated to it. Ms Holeksa,

Mr Alimohammadi, and Dr Thiam have received travel grants from AbbVie; Dr Truong has received honoraria from Merck & Co; Dr Conway has received travel grants, honoraria, and consultant fees from AbbVie, Gilead Sciences, and Merck & Co.; and Ms Magel, Ms Chu, and Ms Yung report no conflicts of interest.


We would like to recognise the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre patients, staff, and supporters, who are committed to the success of the programme. Please note that these data have been updated since initial submission to the European Association for the Study of the Liver International Liver Congress (EASL ILC).

EMJ Hepatol. ;7[1]:43-44.
Direct-acting antivirals (DAA), Hepatitis C virus (HCV), multidisciplinary care, people who use drugs (PWUD).

Each article is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 License.


As many as 250,000 Canadians are living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection,1 and specific populations, such as people who use drugs (PWUD), make up a large proportion of prevalent infections.2 PWUD are largely excluded from receiving HCV care, in part due to provider concerns regarding adherence and therefore treatment efficacy in this population.3 The World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined goals for the elimination of HCV as a public health concern by 2030.4 To achieve this, attention must be paid to these vulnerable populations. This analysis was conducted to document the efficacy of the three most-prescribed all-oral HCV treatment regimens in Canada (elbasvir/grazoprevir [EG], sofosbuvir/ledipasvir [SL], and sofosbuvir/velpatasvir [SV]) among a large population of PWUD, to further support campaigns for the diagnosis and treatment of HCV infection in this priority population.


The study was a retrospective analysis of all HCV-infected PWUD (positive urine drug screen <6 months) initiating HCV treatment at our centre between June 2015 and February 2019. All subjects were enrolled in a multidisciplinary model of care, addressing medical, psychologic, social, and addiction-related needs. The primary outcome was achievement of sustained virological response 12 weeks after treatment (SVR12) (i.e., undetectable HCV RNA ≥12 weeks after the completion of HCV therapy).


A total of 265 individuals initiated therapy with one of the regimens of interest, 218 of whom had reached sufficient follow-up for SVR12 analysis. In the EG cohort (n=61), 11% were HIV positive, 57% were on opiate substitution therapy (OST), and 3% were cirrhotic. In the SL cohort (n=74), 16% were HIV positive, 31% were on OST, and 20% were cirrhotic. Finally, in the SV cohort (n=130), 12% were HIV positive, 58% were on OST, and 17% were cirrhotic. Of those eligible for intention-to-treat SVR analysis to date, SVR12 rates are EG: 82% (42/51), SL: 91% (62/68), and SV: 87% (86/99). There was one virologic failure (in the SL group) and two deaths (one in each of the EG and SL groups); both deaths were related to opioid overdose. A total of 25/218 (11.5%) did not present for SVR12 evaluation. All are still alive, and active processes are underway to ascertain the outcome of HCV therapy and to re-engage them in long-term care. Thus, when excluding losses to follow-up and deaths (modified ITT analysis), SVR rates are EG: 100% (42/42), SL: 98% (62/63), and SV: 100% (86/86). These results can be  seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Hepatitis C virus treatment outcomes.

EG: elbasvir/grazoprevir; ITT: intention-to-treat; mITT: modified intention-to-treat; SL: sofosbuvir/ledipasvir; SV: sofosbuvir/velpatasvir; SVR: sustained virologic response.


The authors found that the currently available regimens for the treatment of HCV appear to be highly successful among PWUD populations in this multidisciplinary care setting. Virologic failure has only been documented in one case, attesting to the efficacy of the therapeutic options, as well as the robust nature of the model of care during therapy. This might include, as needed on an individual basis, the daily dispensing of HCV medications with OST, weekly delivery of pills to shelters, and other strategies to enhance adherence. Despite these measures, about 10%  of the cohort was ‘lost to follow-up’ with respect to SVR12 determination. This is not only  important to ascertain outcome (although 17/25 were HCV RNA negative at last measure, including 9 at 1–11 weeks after the end of therapy), but also for long-term follow-up among cirrhotic patients and those at risk of reinfection. Going forward, the authors plan to enhance their model of care to address this important issue. These results support provision of HCV treatment to PWUD for the achievement of the WHO’s global elimination targets.

Myers RP et al. Burden of disease and cost of chronic hepatitis C infection in Canada. Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;28(5):243-50. Grebely J et al. Global, regional, and country-level estimates of hepatitis C infection among people who have recently injected drugs. Addiction. 2019;114(1):150-66. Asher AK et al. Clinicians' views of hepatitis C virus treatment candidacy with direct-acting antiviral regimens for people who inject drugs. Subst Use Misuse. 2016;51(9):1218-23. World Health Organization. Combating hepatitis B and C to reach elimination by 2030: Advocacy brief. 2016. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/206453/WHO_HIV_2016.04_eng.pdf?sequense=1. Last accessed: 23 April 2019.

Join our mailing list

To receive the EMJ updates straight to your inbox free of charge, please click the button below.
Join Now