Development of ED Protocols to Treat Chronic HCV Patients (HCV Alliance)

Principal Investigator

Research Priority Area

  • Substance Use Disorders

How to Join

Please contact any of the principal investigators and we will collectively discuss and figure out the best way to incorporate any interested persons into our meetings and work.  

Summary

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) recently has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control as the cause of more deaths than all other reportable communicable illnesses in the nation combined. It is estimated that three million Americans, including 43,000 Kentuckians, are living with chronic HCV.

One of the challenges of this epidemic is that infected patients remain asymptomatic for years and therefore, may suffer life-threatening consequences before they even know they have the disease. In addition, the risk factors predisposing patients to contracting the disease – mainly opioid use – make it less likely for patients to seek care even if they are aware that they have HCV. However, the emergency department has proven to be a location rich in HCV prevalence, with one in 10 patients screening positive over the past two years from an existing non-targeted screening program. This disease, with well-described morbidity, mortality, and downstream financial costs in the billions of dollars annually for the U.S., now has a well-tolerated cure that has been proven to mitigate the long-term medical and financial burden of this disease. Unfortunately, 60 percent of patients are still unaware of their diagnosis, and most chronically infected patients have not begun curative treatment.

With the support of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Alliance Research Initiative, the HCV Alliance will develop new approaches for more rapid diagnosis, linkage to care, and treatment uptake. With a multidisciplinary team, the alliance will study existing processes, identify the key flaws leading to linkage and treatment initiation failure of chronic HCV patients, and test changes that most likely lead to more effective treatment rates. The HCV Alliance will focus its efforts on the testing of a rapid diagnosis and treatment model that would engage chronic HCV patients when they are identified in the emergency department and link them to care in other departments.

The principal investigators bring varied and critical skills to the project. Jennifer Havens, PhD, professor in the department of behavioral science, is a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded investigator researching the epidemiology and treatment of HCV and HIV. Roger Humphries, MD, chair of the department of emergency medicine brings a deep knowledge of the department and is experienced in NIH multicenter trials and research logistics. Daniel Moore, MD, associate professor in the department of emergency medicine, has broad experience in screening for HCV and linkage to care coordination.

The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that elimination of HCV is a real possibility, recommending an international goal of eradication by the year 2030. Therefore, finding ways to engage HCV patients when they are admitted to the emergency department could be critical to treating patients in greater numbers and beginning to eradicate this life-threatening infection.

With this goal in mind, the HCV Alliance will pair promising early career researchers with substance use investigators. These teams will be poised to perform the necessary clinical trials at the UK College of Medicine and UK HealthCare and to develop protocols for implementation in other emergency departments and hospitals, with the ultimate goal of eradicating HCV worldwide.

Alliance Members

  • Regan Baum, PharmD, Associate Professor – College of Pharmacy
  • Dan Cleland, Analytics Director – Department of Research
  • James Galbraith, MD – University of Mississippi
  • Jennifer Havens, PhD, Professor – Department of Behavioral Science
  • Roger Humphries, MD, Chair and Professor – Department of Emergency Medicine
  • Daniel Moore, MD, Associate Professor – Department of Emergency Medicine
  • Takako Schaninger, MD, Associate Professor – Department of Internal Medicine/Infectious Disease
  • Alexius Stevenson, Medical Student
  • Sharon Walsh, PhD, Professor – Department of Behavioral Science
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