Background: Approximately 1% of Australians have chronic hepatitis B (CHB), which disproportionately affects people born in hepatitis B-endemic countries. Currently, approximately half of the people affected remain undiagnosed and antiviral treatment uptake is suboptimal (~5%). This increases the likelihood of developing end-stage disease complications, particularly hepatocellular cancer (HCC), and largely accounts for the significant increases in HCC incidence and mortality in Australia over the last decades. As our previous economic modeling suggested that CHB screening and treatment is cost-effective, we tested the feasibility of a primary carebased model of CHB diagnosis and management to prevent HCC.

Materials and methods: From 2009 to 2016, the B Positive program trialed a CHB screening and management program in an area of high disease prevalence in Sydney, Australia. Trained local primary care providers (general practitioners) screened and managed their CHB patients using a purpose-built CHB Registry and a risk stratification algorithm, which allocated patients to ongoing primary care-based management or specialist referral.

Results: The program enrolled and followed up >1,500 people (25% of the target population). Their median age was 48 years, with most participants being born in China (50%) or Vietnam (32%). The risk stratification algorithm allocated most Registry participants (n=847 or 79%) to primary care-based management, reducing unnecessary specialist referrals. The level of antiviral treatment uptake in Registry patients was 18%, which was the optimal level in this population group.

Conclusion: This pilot program demonstrated that primary care-based hepatitis B diagnosis and management is acceptable to patients and their care providers and significantly increases compliance with treatment guidelines. This would suggest that scaling up access to hepatitis B treatment is achievable and can provide a means to operationalize a population-level approach to CHB management and liver cancer prevention.


hepatitis B Registry, primary care, cancer prevention, antiviral treatment, risk stratification

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