HepFREEPak: protocol for a multi-centre, prospective observational study examining efficacy and impact of current therapies for the treatment of hepatitis C in Pakistan and reporting resistance to antiviral drugs: study protocol

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Background: Pakistan has one of the highest burdens of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection globally. To achieve the World Health Organization's goals for HCV elimination, there is a need for substantial scale-up in testing, treatment, and a reduction in new infections. Data on the population impact of scaling up treatment is not available in Pakistan, nor is there reliable data on the incidence of infection/reinfection. This project will fill this gap by providing important empirical data on the incidence of infection (primary and reinfection) in Pakistan. Then, by using this data in epidemic models, the study will determine whether response rates achieved with affordable therapies (sofosbuvir plus daclatasvir) will be sufficient to eliminate HCV in Pakistan.
Methods: This prospective multi-centre cohort study will screen 25,000 individuals for HCV antibody (Ab) and RNA (if Ab-positive) at various centers in Pakistan- Karachi (Sindh) and Punjab, providing estimates of the disease prevalence. HCV positive patients will be treated with sofosbuvir and daclatasvir for 12-weeks, (extended to 24-weeks in those with cirrhosis) and the proportion responding to this first-line treatment estimated. Patients who test HCV Ab negative will be recalled 12 months later to test for new HCV infections, providing estimates of the incidence rate. Patients diagnosed with HCV (~ 4,000) will be treated and tested for Sustained Virological Response (SVR). Questionnaires to assess risk factors, productivity, health care usage and quality of life will be completed at both the initial screening and at 12-month follow-up, allowing mathematical modelling and economic analysis to assess the current treatment strategies. Viral resistance will be analysed and patients who have successfully completed treatment will be retested 12 months later to estimate the rate of re-infection.
Conclusion: The HepFREEPak study will provide evidence on the efficacy of available and widely used treatment options in Pakistan. It will also provide data on the incidence rate of primary infections and re-infections. Data on incidence risk factors will allow us to model and incorporate heterogeneity of risk and how that affects screening and treatment strategies. These data will identify any gaps in current test-and-treat programs to achieve HCV elimination in Pakistan.


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BMC Public Health