Pharmacy screening for Hep C urged
Thousands more cases of hepatitis C would be spotted if pharmacies screened for the virus, experts claim.
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A pilot scheme across 19 UK pharmacies has unearthed many more cases of the virus than are picked up by GPs, with one in six people testing positive.
Hepatitis C is transmitted through infected blood, or hepatitis B, which can be transmitted through other bodily fluids.
Up to half a million people are thought to be living with the disease in the UK but do not know it.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Hepatitis C Trust said the results show the need for wider screening.
Hepatitis C can cause serious liver disease and liver cancer but many people carry the disease for years with no symptoms.
The latest results involved pharmacies offering the test to patients at risk, who were all identified through a series of questions designed to determine their chance of exposure.
From 234 tests carried out, 35 people were diagnosed with hepatitis C (15% of tests) and four people with hepatitis B (2% of tests).
In GP surgeries, 4% of targeted tests find positive hepatitis C patients and 2% of find hepatitis B patients.
Gary Warner, a pharmacist on the Isle of Wight, said: “The results speak for themselves - pharmacies see a different cohort of people to those who see their GP and therefore we can access and diagnose people who otherwise would not have been tested.”