Treatment for hepatitis C

Hep C can be cured!

New Hep C treatments are very effective at curing the infection and work for most people. Everyone who has Hep C should talk to their doctor about their treatment options.

The goals for Hep C treatment are:

  • clearing the virus from the body
  • minimizing liver damage
  • improving the person’s quality of life
  • preventing 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.

Treatment options for Hep C have changed a lot in the last few years. New drugs, called direct acting antivirals are now available. They are easier to take. Have fewer side effects and are taken for a shorter time. Plus, they cure more people than older Hep C drugs. The older standard treatment for Hep C was a combination of two medications: peg-interferon and ribavirin. Peg-interferon can cause many side effects and is no longer used to treat Hep C in Canada. Ribavirin is still added to some treatments.

For some treatments, the length of treatment depends on how well a person’s body responds to the treatment, how much liver damage they have and if they have been treated before. Newer treatments  are shorter and most people can be treated in 8-12 weeks.

Preparing for treatment

A number of factors can affect treatment success including:

  • the degree of liver damage
  • how much virus is in a person’s body
  • how consistently a person can take their medication
  • the strain of hepatitis C a person has
  • 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. 

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.

Staying healthy before and after treatment

You might decide to not take treatment right away. Learn more from your doctor or nurse about staying healthy while waiting for treatment. After treatment, you need to continue to take care of your liver. This is true even if you are cured. Also, learn how to keep yourself and others safe from Hep C. 

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.