Red Deer’s London Drugs has launched a potentially life-saving hepatitis C screening program.
The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver recently recommended people born between 1945 and 1975 get tested for the potentially liver-destroying virus.
“Making testing easy and accessible in the community is critical to get all boomers tested. Testing at the pharmacy will not only help increase awareness of the disease, but also expand access to treatment for those who are diagnosed,” said Doug Highman, pharmacy manager at London Drugs in Red Deer.
“Working collaboratively with other health-care professionals, we can ensure those who test positive will get the treatment and follow-up care they need.”
Central Albertans can now undertake a finger prick test at London Drugs, to see if they have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus.
The test, called the OraQuick HCV rapid antibody test, is more than 99 per cent accurate at detecting HCV antibodies and provides results in 20 minutes.
In the case of a positive result, pharmacists send patients for further lab testing. The patient will then be connected to a physician for diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, pharmacists provide education about the therapies available. The treatment involves taking antiviral medications daily for eight to 12 weeks.
Shannon Brown, a nurse practitioner who treats hepatitis C patients in the Red Deer area, said people may not experience any symptoms until the end stages of the disease.
“That makes screening and early diagnosis critically important,” said Brown.
“There is a lot of misinformation about the disease, but the cure rate is now above 95 per cent with the new treatment options available.”
Hepatitis C screening is available at London Drugs by appointment. Patients can call or visit the pharmacy to schedule an appointment or book online at pharmacy.londondrugs.com/Booking. The test costs $24 at London Drugs.
Free screenings were provided on Thursday.