Knowing the right therapy is vital to protecting your liver and your health
If you have hepatitis C, finding the right treatment can be complicated, but it’s vital to eliminating the virus and protecting your liver and your health.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the amount of the hepatitis C virus circulating in your body—known as achieving sustained virologic response (SVR). This means you have no detectable hepatitis C virus in your blood six months after you finish treatment. Once you achieve SVR, you have a much lower risk of developing disease-related complications, including cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure.
To best understand your treatment options, talk to your doctor. Your treatment will depend on several factors:
Which of the six genotypes of the hepatitis C virus has infected your liver
How long you’ve had the infection
Existing liver damage you may have already sustained
Other health conditions from which you suffer
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a variety of drug treatments for hepatitis C:
Traditional treatment consists of double and triple therapies—combinations of classes of drugs known as interferon, pegylated interferon, ribavirin and antivirals. The length of treatment depends on the severity of your disease and the specific drugs you’re taking, but usually lasts 24 to 48 weeks. The side effects to these traditional treatments can be tough and include muscle aches, anxiety, depression, hair loss, headache and fatigue. Some people aren’t able to complete treatment because of the side effects. You should also note that traditional treatments don’t always work as well for African Americans, though we are twice as likely to have the disease as white Americans.
Two new drugs received FDA approval late in 2013. The new medications—Sovaldi and Olysio—have fewer side effects than traditional treatments and treatment is shorter, lasting 12 to 24 weeks. These new meds have a 95 percent cure rate, but come with a hefty price tag.
Another round of hepatitis C drugs is expected to receive FDA approval later this year or early next year. This class of drugs may prove superior, and some health-care experts are suggesting that patients at earlier stages of the disease might want to wait for those drugs to come down the pipeline.