Hepatitis C can be treated by primary care doctors and nurses, study finds

You don't need a specialist to treat hepatitis C, new research finds.

Research by The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has found that people can get effective and safe treatment for Hepatitis C without having to see a specialist.

The findings are important because there are not enough specialists to meet the demand for treating the number of hepatitis patients that need care, the researchers said.

Three million people in the United States have Hepatitis C and the number could spike as more baby boomers adhere to new medical guidelines to get tested for the infection that leads to liver damage, cancer, and even costly transplants.

"The limited availability of experienced specialists restricts rapid expansion of Hepatitis C treatment, compromising the goal of global eradication," Dr. Sarah Kattakuzhy, assistant professor of medicine and lead author of the study.  "As such, care models which bypass this therapeutic bottleneck must be explored.”

Results of the study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, were released Friday at The International Liver Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The Phase 4 clinical trial looked at chronic HCV-infected patients at community health centers in the United States. Patients were treated by a specialist, primary care physician or nurse practitioner. All providers received three hours of training as part of the study.

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