Treatment for hepatitis C virus with direct acting antiviral agents: Perspectives and treatment experiences of people who inject drugs

Alison Karasz, Reena Singh, Melissa D. McKee, Krupa Merchant, Arthur Y. Kim, Kimberly Page, Irene Pericot-Valverde, Ellen S. Stein, Lynn E. Taylor, Katherine Wagner, Alain H. Litwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Increasingly, people who inject drugs (PWID) infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are gaining access to highly effective direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs). Although past studies examined patient experiences with interferon-based treatments, few have explored patient experiences with these new generation therapeutics. Research and real world experience indicate that many PWID can be successfully treated with the new DAAs. Yet a substantial minority fail to complete treatment or achieve only suboptimal adherence. This qualitative study examines experiences with treatment among participants in Project HERO, a large multisite trial designed to compare treatment delivery methods for DAAs. We explored treatment experiences among HERO participants, with the goal of understanding potential barriers to treatment engagement and completion. Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with a sample of 21 participants, including 14 who completed HCV treatment and 7 participants who discontinued treatment before the end of the 12-week medication course. The first phase of the analysis was descriptive, examining participants' life experiences, histories of disease and treatment seeking, experiences with the program, and barriers to treatment completion. The second phase of the analysis examined differences between completers and noncompleters. Results: Participants offered a variety of reasons for seeking treatment. Both groups of participants reported highly positive experiences of the HERO trial. Participants described research staff as caring, respectful, and nonjudgmental. Substance use was reported by both groups, yet completers described “manageable” substance use, while noncompleters described substance use that sapped their energy and motivation. Shame over drug use was a barrier to treatment completion. Homelessness and a reported lack of social support were much more common in the noncompleter group. Conclusions: Reasons for noncompletion were not related to features of the clinical trial or treatment program. Our results indicate the importance of: 1) recognizing and addressing severe social and economic challenges such as homelessness; and 2) building a program culture of respect and compassion in treatment programs for PWID infected with HCV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108768
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Barriers
  • Experiences with treatment
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Homelessness
  • PWID
  • Shame

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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