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Hepatitis C patients struggling with alcohol: There’s an app for them

May 26, 2016
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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Primrose Healthcare, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based software company specializing in technology and evidence-based protocols for the optimized treatment of hepatitis C, has partnered with Here and Now Systems to develop a mobile app for hepatitis C patients working to overcome alcohol addiction.

Tailored specifically for those with hepatitis C, Primrose Step Away is a version of the original Step Away app developed by Here and Now. The Primrose version provides hepatitis C patients with a variety of resources to curb alcohol consumption. Launched this week, it is free in the App Store for Apple iOS devices.

Alcohol abuse is a major concern for hepatitis C patients; 88% percent of liver-related events or in-hospital deaths occurred in patients with chronic alcohol abuse disorders or severe comorbidities, according to the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL). Conversely, patients who stopped drinking saw a 29% reduction in risk for either a liver-related event or in-hospital death compared to those who continued to drink, per the EASL study. The study analyzed the French National Hospital Discharge Database, identifying more than 28.9 million adults who had at least one hospital stay from 2008-12, which constitutes about half the adults in France.

The Primrose Step Away app can fill a need in the care continuum for hepatitis C patients, as the doctors they most closely work with might not be as well versed in treating alcohol addiction, says Primrose CEO Henri Cournand.

“A doctor will be working with a patient on their hepatitis C and says, ‘You really need to address your alcohol consumption because it will continue to deteriorate your liver.’ The patient will say, ‘How can I do that?’ ” says Cournand. “If you’re speaking to a gastroenterologist or a hepatologist, that’s not in their wheelhouse and they aren’t necessarily aware of all the resources available. That patient gets lost as they’re left to their own devices.”

The Primrose app attempts to address this by providing users with access to a variety of tools, feedback and personal coaching to help users control and manage alcohol urges. Early returns are promising. People who have used a prototype of the app for six weeks cut down their days engaged in heavy drinking by 60% and reduced their overall alcohol consumption by over 50%, Patrick Duhlin, Here and Now Systems founder, said in a statement.

Cournand says the Primrose Step Away app isn’t designed to replace Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other treatment resources, but rather to provide patients with another option.

“Some people are willing to do meetings. Some do calendars, personal responsibilities, but never go to a meeting,” Cournand says. “They have to figure it out on their own somehow. This can be utilized in those situations. This is not meant to replace (other services), this is in addition to. We want to provide as many options so this person can really address their issues.”

Tom Valentino is Senior Editor for Addiction Professional.

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