Excerpt from the Fall 2017 edition of Hep Magazine.
Across the United States, an estimated 3.5 million Americans are living with hepatitis C virus (HCV). The liver disease is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the country and outranks both HIV and hepatitis B in total new cases and related deaths.
Last spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that although thousands of people have been cured over the past four years, the number of new HCV infections increased by nearly 300 percent nationwide between 2010 and 2015. The report also identified the most likely culprit behind this recent spike: Americans’ skyrocketing use of heroin, opioids and other injection drugs.
“Every week, I see young people, who often have been shut off from their prescription opiates, coming in hooked,” says Lynn Taylor, MD, a practicing physician, clinical researcher and associate professor of medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “Then they turn to heroin, and the next thing I know, they see me for hep C.”
But the country’s losing battle against the epidemic doesn’t have to turn out this way, says Taylor. She is one of a growing number of doctors across the United States who want to treat hep C and opioid addiction as a syndemic — interrelated health crises that must be diagnosed, managed and treated together.
Photo Credit: Ken Richardson