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Addiction. 2008 Jun;103(6):905-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02188.x. Epub 2008 Apr 16.

Critical issues in the treatment of hepatitis C virus infection in methadone maintenance patients.

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Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA.



Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a common chronic complication of injection drug use. Methadone maintenance programs contain large numbers of patients infected with HCV. This paper reviews HCV infection with emphasis on the medical care of HCV-infected, or HCV and human immunodeficiency virus co-infected, patients on methadone or buprenorphine maintenance.


Literature searches using PubMed, PsycINFO and SocINDEX were used to identify papers from 1990-present on antiviral therapy for HCV in methadone maintenance patients and on liver transplantation in methadone maintenance patients.


Injection drug use is the most significant risk factor for HCV infection in most western countries. The prevalence of HCV antibody is high in injection drug users (53-96%) and in patients enrolled in methadone maintenance programs (67-96%). Studies of antiviral therapy for HCV in methadone maintenance patients show rates of sustained virological response (SVR), defined as negative HCV-RNA 24 weeks after the end of treatment, of 28-94%. In studies with contrast groups, no significant differences in SVR between methadone and contrast groups were found. Excellent completion rates of antiviral therapy (72-100%) were found in five of six studies. There are many barriers to methadone maintenance patients' receiving antiviral therapy, and research on overcoming barriers is discussed. Liver transplantation has been successful in methadone maintenance patients but has not been utilized widely.


High quality medical care for all aspects of HCV infection can be provided to methadone maintenance patients. The literature supports the effectiveness of such services, but the reality is that most patients do not receive them.

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