Walgreens pharmacist interventions help improve compliance to newer 'triple therapy' hepatitis C treatment

DEERFIELD, Ill. — More than two-thirds of patients with hepatitis C achieved sustained virologic response or cure after completing newer “triple therapy” treatment, according to a Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy study released Friday. 

Two years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two new protease inhibitors, telaprevir and boceprevir, which help prevent the virus from reproducing. When used in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin, the new medications significantly increased the cure rate and cut treatment time in half. Typically taken for 24 weeks or longer, the triple therapy regimen can cause significant side effects.

Even though the therapy may be life-saving, many patients have a difficult time completing the treatment due to the side effects and because they usually don’t feel sick when they have HCV. This makes pharmacist follow-up and support particularly important.

All patients who receive their HCV medications through Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy are included in the ConnectedCare program, which provides pharmacist-led support and guidance to help patients complete therapy. ConnectedCare features extensive patient education, screening for potential health concerns — including anemia and depression — regular medication counseling, awareness of possible insurance and financial assistance options and round-the-clock access to pharmacists.

“Our pharmacists and staff work diligently to help assess barriers to adherence and concerns associated with this condition,” stated Richard Miller, director of clinical services for Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy. “As integral members of our patient’s health care team, we are committed to providing ongoing support and education.” 

The Walgreens study included 406 HCV patients who received triple therapy with either telaprevir or boceprevir. Six months after completion of the treatment, 272 patients (67%) achieved SVR. Additionally, the adherence rate was above 90% for all of the medications. 

Before the FDA approved the new medications, patients with HCV-1 (the most common genotype) were prescribed dual therapy with peginterferon and ribavirin for 48 weeks, resulting in an SVR rate of 38% to 46%.