Treatment for hepatitis C

Treatment can cure Hep C.

The goals for Hep C treatment are:

  • clear the virus from the body
  • minimize liver damage
  • improve the person’s quality of life
  • prevent the spread of Hep C to other people

If treatment is successful it means the virus can no longer be detected in the body and won’t pass to other people.

 

 Medications

Ordinary medications such as antibiotics do not kill viruses but viruses can sometimes be managed with antiviral medications. 

Standard treatment for Hep C involves a combination of medications.  Two of the standard medications,  peg-interferon and ribavirin, are now used with new medications, including sofosbuvir,simeprevir and harvoni.  These new medications are called direct-acting antivirals, which can stop the Hep C virus from making copies of itself.

For some treatments, the length of treatment depends on how well a person’s body responds to the medicine, how much liver damage they have and if they have been treated before. Treatment can last up to a year, but newer medications are shortening that time to just a few months.

Some Hep C medications, like peg-interferon can cause many side effects but it is possible to manage them. Newer Hep C medications have fewer side effects.

Over the next few years more new medications will be more effective at curing people from Hep C. A doctor may suggest waiting for new medicines to be available before starting treatment. Many of these new medications are direct-acting antivirals. Some of them will replace both peg-interferon and ribavirin.

 

Preparing for treatment

A number of factors can affect treatment success including:

  • the strain of hepatitis C a person has
  • the degree of liver damage
  • how much virus is in a person’s body
  • how consistently a person can take their medication
  • age
  • body weight
  • ethnicity
  • alcohol intake
  • support from friends and family. 

It is important to plan with your healthcare worker, friends and family before starting treatment. Doctors will always evaluate patients before treatment, during and six months after treatment. They will keep track of the patient’s liver health as well as the amount of virus in the body.  A person will also have to take into account the side effects of treatment, whether they may need time off work, other health conditions they may have to manage as well as the cost of treatment. 

Treatment is expensive and the cost can affect access. There are programs that can help cover the cost. A healthcare worker can help a patient find programs for financial aid or treatment coverage.

Friends and family can help support a person and help take care of a person physically as well as mentally.  Starting treatment is a decision a person will make with their doctor as well as with the people who support them.

It is important to remember that treatment does not result in immunity from the virus and a person can become infected again.

Treatment can save a person’s liver, and their life.