START Receives Gilead’s Focus Grant to Enhance Hepatitis C & HIV Patient Services

START Treatment & Recovery Centers is proud to announce the recently created partnership between this agency and Gilead Pharmaceuticals in enhancing our comprehensive array of medical care and services. This new collaboration is designed to provide additional support to our patients who have been diagnosed with the Hepatitis C (HCV) infection.

Traditionally, these patients have presented numerous barriers to access and retention in medical treatment. Overcoming these barriers is the main focus of this joint initiative.

The creation of the HCV Case Manager program at START pursues the overarching goal of maximizing all opportunities to link and retain HCV patients in this type of medical treatment.

Linkage and retention of patients in hepatitis c treatment has been difficult for people who abuse drugs. At START, we have designed an all-inclusive plan to provide education, support, coaching and empowerment to our patients suffering from this disease based on evidenced-based models” said Lawrence S. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH, FASAM, who is START's CEO and Acting Medical Director.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are over 4 million persons with HCV infection in the US. Substance abusers, particularly people who inject drugs (PWID) are disproportionately affected by this disease, and are largely responsible for sustaining the epidemic. When left untreated, HCV infection leads to serious liver disease, liver cancer and death. The costs to tackle these medical complications are exorbitant. At START, about one third of our population suffers from this disease.

“The intricacies of HCV treatment demands an accurate and sustainable plan of treatment adherence, which in most cases is lacking, or is not achieved by our patients due to a number of reasons”, Dr Brown stated. “We have identified within our affected population those barriers to access and retention in HCV care, and have responded by generating practical tools and interventions that will systematically eradicate them”.

Co-location of medical services at substance abuse programs have been proven to be effective in the provision of integrated medical and behavioral care and services. However, most substance abuse treatment programs lack the required infrastructure to successfully execute those interventions. HCV treatment, in particular, demands specialty medical services, and thus, the logistics are more complicated and are generally outside the scope of services substance abuse programs can provide.

By securing sponsorship from Gilead Pharmaceuticals, START's HCV-infected population will receive greater support in HCV care, emphasizing linkage to and retention in this type of treatment. This support will come in the form of individualized guidance and HCV education; support for keeping medical appointments; and treatment monitoring, as well as the prompt identification and elimination of any medical and social obstacles that can negatively influence clinical outcomes.

“Given the current exciting changes within the HCV treatment landscape, the addition of HCV Case Managers will translate into more patients completing HCV treatment and achieving a cure. Thus, we are very pleased with this working partnership with Gilead Pharmaceuticals”. said Dr Brown.