CVS said Monday that the initiative is part of a statewide effort to heighten awareness about the prevalence of hepatitis A, B and C in Hawaii and to encourage the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis, a collection of viruses that attack the liver and may lead to liver disease and liver cancer. Hawaii has the nation’s highest rate of liver cancer,the company noted.
MinuteClinics in Hawaii recently began offering hepatitis C screenings to people who may have been exposed to the hepatitis virus. The virus is spread through direct blood-to-blood contact with someone who has hepatitis C. The most common way to get hepatitis C is through injected drug use, getting a blood transfusion prior to 1992, or being exposed to blood in some other way.
The cost of a Hepatitis C screening consultation at MinuteClinic ranges from $59-$69, plus $39 for the Hepatitis C blood test. The screenings are available at all of Hawaii’s MinuteClinic locations, including at four Longs stores in Honolulu, one in Aiea, one in Kailua, one in Kaneohe, one in Kapolei and one in Wahiawa.
Longs Drugs pharmacists also are helping to raise awareness of hepatitis C and B. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood and other bodily fluids, and the most common way to get the disease is from mother to baby. CVS noted that Asians, native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders tend to be infected at a much higher rate.
Last month, Longs pharmacists began inviting patients to complete a “Prevent Liver Cancer — Get Checked for Hepatitis” assessment form at the pharmacy counter. The pharmacist then reviews the assessment and provides a recommendation on whether a patient should be tested for hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. The pharmacist also provides the patient with a list of nearby testing facilities, including doctor’s offices, free testing facilities or MinuteClinic, for those patients at risk for hepatitis C.
If a patient is eligible for the Hepatitis B vaccination series, a Longs immunizing pharmacist can administer the required doses right in the pharmacy. The cost of the hepatitis B vaccine is typically covered by health insurance plans, although patients are encouraged to check with their health insurer.
Patients can take the “Prevent Liver Cancer – Get Checked for Hepatitis” assessment at all of Hawaii’s more than 60 Longs locations and receive the hepatitis B vaccine series if needed. Hepatitis A and B vaccines are also available at MinuteClinic locations.
“It’s critical that people who may have been exposed to hepatitis be screened for the virus. The longer people live with the virus, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening conditions such as liver disease,” MinuteClinic president Andrew Sussman said in a statement.
“A simple screening will not only help them learn if they are infected, but can also help them get referred to life-saving care and treatment,” added Sussman, who’s also associate chief medical officer for CVS Health. “We’re happy to be able to provide this important screening to people living in Hawaii, which will help them on their path to better health.”