East Hawaii News

DOH, Pharmacies Team to Offer Hepatitis Assessments

May 19, 2015, 1:39 PM HST
* Updated May 19, 1:40 PM
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The Hawai’i State Department of Health has begun a partnership with local pharmacies to give patients the opportunity to be assessed for hepatitis. The partnership began Tuesday, coinciding with National Hepatitis Testing Day.

According to the DOH, Hawai’i has one of the highest rates of liver cancer in the United States, and the majority of the cases in Hawai’i are caused by viral hepatitis. With about 63,000 Hawai’i residents living with either chronic hepatitis B or C, the DOH says many may not even realize they have an infection until it develops into something like liver disease or cancer.

“Most people with hepatitis B or C don’t know that they have it,” said Thaddeus Pham, the DOH Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator. “If undetected, hepatitis B and C can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, or even death. With hepatitis B and C screening covered by most insurance and more effective hepatitis treatments available, people have better options to take care of themselves before they become ill. They just have to get screened first.”

During the screening, a pharmacist will offer an assessment, but not an actual test. If someone is deemed “at risk,” they will receive a referral letter with billing codes to take to their healthcare provider. Individuals who are interested in being assessed directly may go through their healthcare providers initially.

Walgreens in Hilo is the only participating pharmacy on the Big Island. Walgreens is located at 301 East Makaala Street, near Walmart.

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“We’re partnering with local pharmacies because we recognize the increasing role of pharmacists in our daily healthcare,” Pharm said. “As patients, many of us often go to our local pharmacy or drug store more often that we go to our doctor. It is important to use every opportunity to increase awareness and screening for our ohana.”

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For a full list of participating pharmacies throughout the state or for more information, visit the HEP Free website.

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