VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Sept. 07, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — An innovative and potentially life-saving hepatitis C screening program has launched at five London Drugs locations in the Lower Mainland.

Patients can now undertake a simple finger prick test at the pharmacy to check if they have been exposed to hepatitis C virus (HCV) at some point in the past. The test, called the OraQuick HCV rapid antibody test, is more than 99% accurate at detecting HCV antibodies and provides results in 20 minutes.

In cases of a positive result, pharmacists refer patients to their family doctor for a diagnostic lab test. Pharmacists provide initial counselling regarding the potential diagnosis and education about the ability to cure HCV.

“It is critically important to screen those at risk so we can treat hepatitis C early. Early diagnosis can help patients avoid potentially serious liver disease, including liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. The purpose of our screening program is to help make the test easily accessible to those at risk so more people can receive an early diagnosis,” says Allen Wu, Pharmacy Manager at London Drugs.

The program launches on the heels of new testing guidelines published by the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver recommending that all Canadians born between 1945 and 1975 get tested for the potentially liver-destroying virus.

“Over 75 per cent of people living with hepatitis C in British Columbia were born between 1945 and 1975. We need to raise awareness about the importance of getting tested and increase access to screening – particularly for this age group – so that we can start to treat affected individuals early,” says Dr. Alnoor Ramji, a Hepatitis C specialist and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at UBC.

There are approximately 80,000 British Columbians believed to be infected with hepatitis C and the province has one of the highest rates of new cases per year in Canada. Many are unaware they harbour the blood-borne virus because it can take decades before symptoms become evident.

“Hepatitis C is a silent epidemic partly because most people do not know if they are infected but also because the stigma of the disease has created barriers to diagnosis and treatment,” says Patient Advocate with the Pacific Hepatitis C Network, Daryl Luster, who had undiagnosed symptoms for years as a result of the liver-damaging virus and is now cured.

“Expanding access to screening through pharmacies will help improve access to treatment and curative therapy, and erode the stigma associated with the disease. B.C. is set to be a leader in the elimination of hepatitis C,” adds Luster.

Hepatitis C screening is available at the following London Drugs locations. Patients can call or visit the pharmacy to book an appointment. The cost of the test is $24.

Peninsula Village Mall
15355 – 24th Avenue
South Surrey, British Columbia V4A 2H9
Pharmacy: (604) 535-3281
Park Royal North
875 Park Royal North
West Vancouver, British Columbia V7T 1H9
Pharmacy: (604) 926-9616
Kerrisdale
2091 W 42nd Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia V6M 2B4
Pharmacy: (604) 263-1811
West Broadway
525 West Broadway
Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 1E6
Pharmacy: (604) 872-5177
Granville & Georgia
710 Granville St.
Vancouver, British Columbia V6Z 1E4
Pharmacy: (604) 685-5292

Press Release Source: http://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/09/07/1568061/0/en/London-Drugs-Launches-Potentially-Life-Saving-Hepatitis-C-Screening-at-Pharmacies.html