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Open Access Research article

Estimating the cost-effectiveness of detecting cases of chronic hepatitis C infection on reception into prison

Andrew J Sutton12*, W John Edmunds1 and O Noel Gill1

Author Affiliations

1 Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, 61 Colindale Ave, London NW9 5EQ, UK

2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:170  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-170

Published: 27 June 2006



In England and Wales where less than 1% of the population are Injecting drug users (IDUs), 97% of HCV reports are attributed to injecting drug use. As over 60% of the IDU population will have been imprisoned by the age of 30 years, prison may provide a good location in which to offer HCV screening and treatment. The aim of this work is to examine the cost effectiveness of a number of alternative HCV case-finding strategies on prison reception


A decision analysis model embedded in a model of the flow of IDUs through prison was used to estimate the cost effectiveness of a number of alternative case-finding strategies. The model estimates the average cost of identifying a new case of HCV from the perspective of the health care provider and how these estimates may evolve over time.


The results suggest that administering verbal screening for a past positive HCV test and for ever having engaged in illicit drug use prior to the administering of ELISA and PCR tests can have a significant impact on the cost effectiveness of HCV case-finding strategies on prison reception; the discounted cost in 2017 being £2,102 per new HCV case detected compared to £3,107 when no verbal screening is employed.


The work here demonstrates the importance of targeting those individuals that have ever engaged in illicit drug use for HCV testing in prisons, these individuals can then be targeted for future intervention measures such as treatment or monitored to prevent future transmission.