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Regional differences in access to direct-acting antiviral treatments for hepatitis C across Ontario: a cross-sectional study


Background — Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are curative treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, a condition affecting over 100,000 Ontarians. Although DAAs are covered under the public drug programs in Ontario, receiving prescriptions depends on access to healthcare. The aim of this study is to understand the relationship between DAA treatment rates and distance to prescriber in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — We conducted a cross-sectional study and identified patients who filled a DAA prescription through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) in 2019. We calculated crude (per 100,000 ODB recipients) and adjusted (by a regional HCV infection rate) DAA treatment rates by public health unit (PHU). We reported median distances to provider for all visit types, in-person visits, virtual visits, and proportions of visits that were virtual.

Results — In 2019, the crude DAA treatment rate for Ontario is 83.0 patients per 100,000 ODB recipients. The HCV-adjusted DAA treatment rate ranges from 28.2 (Northwestern Ontario) to 188.5 (Eastern Ontario) per 100,000. In our primary analysis, patients in rural PHUs, including Northwestern and Porcupine, were among the highest median distances to prescriber for all visit types (1,195 km and 556 km, respectively). These PHUs also had the highest proportions of virtual visits (greater than 60%). Urban PHUs, such as Toronto and Ottawa, had smaller median distances for all visit types, with smaller proportions of virtual visits (10.8% and 12.4%, respectively).

Conclusion — We observed heterogeneity in treatment rates, distance to DAA prescribers and use of virtual care in the management of HCV. Increasing use of telemedicine in regions with limited utilization of DAAs may improve access.



Konstantelos N, Shakeri A, McCormack D, Campos-Meade A, Gomes T, Murti M, Pierre-Pierre V, Tadrous M. Can Commun Dis Rep. 2022; 48(4):170-8. Epub 2022 Apr 1.

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