16 January 2024
The International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU), in collaboration with the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination (CGHE), FIND, The Kirby Institute, UNSW, and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), announces the release of a comprehensive report stemming from the INHSU Hepatitis C Point-of-Care Testing Forum, held during the Global Hepatitis Summit in Paris in April 2023.
Despite advances in treatment, an estimated 57 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C infection globally, with 290,000 people dying from HCV-related cirrhosis and liver cancer each year. Scaling up testing and utilising innovative testing methods are integral if the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2030 elimination targets are to be met.
This report, developed in response to the urgent need for effective strategies to combat the global burden of HCV, explores the underutilised promise of point-of-care testing in simplifying diagnosis, improving access to treatment, and ultimately reducing the prevalence of HCV.
Emma Day, Executive Director of INHSU, emphasised the critical importance of this collaborative effort, stating, “The insights shared at the INHSU Hepatitis C Point-of-Care Testing Forum highlight the potential of point-of-care testing in transforming the landscape of HCV diagnosis and care. By breaking down barriers, we can significantly enhance our efforts towards achieving global HCV elimination goals.”
Following the Forum, the report draws on experience from key stakeholders to outline barriers and solutions for increasing access to point-of-care testing across five key areas within a health systems framework. Some of the key takeaways include:
- Raise awareness about the importance of point-of-care testing, ensure national HCV testing guidelines are developed and that these include PoC
- Improve regulatory approval pathways by harmonising data requirements for device manufacturers
- Engage with the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) to reclassify HCV point-of-care testing diagnostic devices
Workforce and Quality Assurance:
- Co-design training programs for a multidisciplinary workforce
- Develop cost-effective systems supporting training and connectivity
- Enhance understanding of quality assurance, increase quality control product availability, and simplify report formats
Health Information Systems:
- Standardise data exchange and messaging protocols
- Advocate for increased funding for IT infrastructure
- Improve adherence of IT products with data security regulations
- Establish sustainable financing mechanisms
- Integrate HCV point-of-care testing within existing programs for cost-optimisation
- Provide governments with cost-effectiveness data
- Advocate for leveraging existing point-of-care testing services for HCV
- Streamline technology platforms for data collection and linkage
The report underscores the urgent need for action to address challenges in these five key areas and provides practical solutions for implementation alongside real-world examples of successful Point-of-Care programs from Catalonia, Iran, Denmark and more. It is a valuable resource for policymakers, healthcare professionals, and organisations committed to advancing global HCV elimination goals.