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Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Rationale and design of a randomized controlled trial of directly observed hepatitis C treatment delivered in methadone clinics

Alain H Litwin12*, Karina M Berg12, Xuan Li1, Jennifer Hidalgo1 and Julia H Arnsten123

Author Affiliations

1 Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th Street, Bronx, New York, 10467, USA

2 Division of Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th Street, Bronx, New York, 10467, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th Street, Bronx, New York, 10467, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:315  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-315

Published: 12 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Most methadone-maintained injection drug users (IDUs) have been infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), but few initiate HCV treatment. Physicians may be reluctant to treat HCV in IDUs because of concerns about treatment adherence, psychiatric comorbidity, or ongoing drug use. Optimal HCV management approaches for IDUs remain unknown. We are conducting a randomized controlled trial in a network of nine methadone clinics with onsite HCV care to determine whether modified directly observed therapy (mDOT), compared to treatment as usual (TAU), improves adherence and virologic outcomes among opioid users.

Methods/Design

We plan to enroll 80 HCV-infected adults initiating care with pegylated interferon alfa-2a (IFN) plus ribavirin, and randomize them to mDOT (directly observed daily ribavirin plus provider-administered weekly IFN) or TAU (self-administered ribavirin plus provider-administered weekly IFN). Our outcome measures are: 1) self-reported and pill count adherence, and 2) end of treatment response (ETR) or sustained viral response (SVR). We will use mixed effects linear models to assess differences in pill count adherence between treatment arms (mDOT v. TAU), and we will assess differences between treatment arms in the proportion of subjects with ETR or SVR with chi square tests. Of the first 40 subjects enrolled: 21 have been randomized to mDOT and 19 to TAU. To date, the sample is 77% Latino, 60% HCV genotype-1, 38% active drug users, and 27% HIV-infected. Our overall retention rate at 24 weeks is 92%, 93% in the mDOT arm and 92% in the TAU arm.

Discussion

This paper describes the design and rationale of a randomized clinical trial comparing modified directly observed HCV therapy delivered in a methadone program to on-site treatment as usual. Our trial will allow rigorous evaluation of the efficacy of directly observed HCV therapy (both pegylated interferon and ribavirin) for improving adherence and clinical outcomes. This detailed description of trial methodology can serve as a template for the development of future DOT programs, and can also guide protocols for studies among HCV-infected drug users receiving methadone for opiate dependence.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01442311