The Newest Treatments of Hep C—Why They Are So Much Better than Previous Treatments
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis C virus. The initial acute stage of the infection does not have any symptoms, and thus the virus can go undetected until the condition becomes chronic, posing a threat of liver damage, such as cirrhosis or liver cancer. The virus is transmitted via the blood of the infected person from sharing and injecting with used needles and syringes, sexual contact with infected individuals, or body piercing with reused needles. The virus can also be transmitted from an infected pregnant mother to her unborn child as well as from healthcare workers who handle and work with blood samples. Presently, there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C, so it is wise to be careful and take precautions.
Treatment for Hepatitis C
The acute phase of the infection is often not treated immediately; however, the virus spread must be checked periodically to find out if the body has fought against the spread of the virus. The chronic condition, however, requires medical intervention along with lifestyle changes. These lifestyle measures include stopping smoking and alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, having a balanced and healthy diet, keeping personal items away from others, and not sharing syringes or needles.
New treatments and its benefits
The new treatment includes medications such as simeprevir, sofosbuvir, and daclatasvir, combinations of ombitasvir and paritaprevir, along with ribavirin, a combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir. Some of these are taken alone while others are administered along with interferon and/or ribavirin.
The dosage of these medications is tablets taken once or twice daily; thus they are easily consumed. Also, the treatment time is reduced significantly to 12 to 24 weeks for most of the patients with the new medication. The cure rate for most of these drugs is much higher than with older medications; for instance, the combination of ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir along with dasabuvir is found to cure 95% of patients. The side effects are also drastically reduced, thus encouraging patients to stick to the therapy.
Older treatment method
The older treatment for Hep C included a combination of medications that sometimes lasted for 48 weeks. The combination therapy included the drugs pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The interferon was administered as a weekly injectable dose that encouraged the immune system to fight against the virus. The ribavirin acted as an antiviral that halted the reproduction of the virus and was administered in capsule form twice daily.
Consequences of these treatments
This combination therapy was accompanied by severe side effects including depression, fatigue, anemia, loss of appetite, problems going to sleep, rash, itchy skin, and general flu-like symptoms. The treatment was also found to bring about cognitive deficits, such as impaired concentration and attention, which negatively affected the health-related quality of life of patients as well as their social life. Also, the recovery rate using this therapy was only about 40-45%. The profound side effects of treatment and lower rate of cure made way for newer medication.
The newer treatment for Hep C is simpler, effective, and has reduced treatment time to as few as 8 weeks in some cases. The percentage of cured patients is also significantly higher, with negligible side effects.
Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.