An Overview Of Hepatitis C Medications For Patients

6 min read
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Feb 3, 2024
An Overview Of Hepatitis C Medications For Patients

How is hepatitis C treated?

All-oral medicines are used to treat the hepatitis C virus. Typically, one dose of these tablets—also known as antiviral medications—is given daily. These antiviral drugs work incredibly well to combat the virus and stop it from spreading.
Hepatitis C was not originally treated with antiviral drugs. Prior to 2014, the only known treatment for hepatitis C involved weekly subcutaneous injections of interferon and ribavirin along with medication.
The use of interferon therapy was not always effective and had a lot of severe side effects. Then, a fresh batch of drugs hit the market. These antiviral medications have relatively little adverse effects and are incredibly effective at curing the virus.
Although it is no longer always necessary, ribavirin (without interferon) is still occasionally prescribed to be taken in addition to the new antiviral medications. There are a few mild to moderate adverse effects of ribavirin.
Depending on the patient's body weight, ribavirin is taken twice daily as two or three pills in the morning and two or three pills at night. In most cases, ribavirin is not necessary.

Why is it recommended that persons with hepatitis C take antiviral drugs?

When treating hepatitis C, the goal of taking antiviral drugs is to:
  • Eliminate (or eradicate) the hepatitis C virus entirely from your body.
  • Halt or reduce the hepatic damage.
  • Lower your chance of getting cirrhosis, which is a more severe form of liver damage.
  • Lower your chance of getting hepatocellular carcinoma, or liver cancer.
  • Cut down on the likelihood of liver failure and the requirement for a liver transplant.

What does receiving a successful course of treatment mean? A Sustained Virologic Response (SVR): What is it?

When the hepatitis C virus is left untreated, it attacks liver cells and remains there permanently, replicating and circulating throughout the circulation.
Antiviral drugs have the power to stop the virus from reproducing, which lowers the virus's concentration in the blood. HCV RNA, commonly known as the viral load, is used to quantify the amount of virus present in blood.
When the viral load becomes undetectable, that is, the virus cannot be found in the bloodstream at all, treatment is considered successful. During treatment, the viral load disappears, and it does not reappear once treatment is over.
The treatment considered successful if, twelve weeks after it ended, there was still no discernible virus in the blood. A sustained viral response is what this is known as (SVR).
An individual is deemed to be free of the hepatitis C virus when they have obtained an SVR.

Which pharmaceutical brands are used to treat hepatitis C?

Many antiviral therapies for hepatitis C have been developed since 2014. There are frequently multiple excellent solutions available to patients nowadays due to the abundance of options.
Given all the possibilities available, some therapies are used less frequently, while others are advised as first-line, second-line, or third-line solutions.
  • Elbasvir/Grazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • Glecaprevir/Pibrentasvir (Mavyret)
  • Sofosbuvir/Ledipasvir (Harvoni)
  • Sofosbuvir/Velpatasvir (Epclusa)
  • Sofosbuvir/Velpatasvir/Voxelaprevir (Vosevi)

How long is the treatment?

Typically, treatment lasts between eight and twelve weeks, but in certain cases, it might last up to sixteen weeks. Although it is rare, some patients with more severe liver damage might need to get treatment for 24 weeks. The length of time varies depending on the drug and unique HCV characteristics in each patient.

What is the probability that the therapy will eradicate my hepatitis C virus?

Treatment regimens for hepatitis C have very high success rates. Overall, the cure rate (SVR) is close to 95%.

Do hepatitis C patients always require treatment?

Treatment for hepatitis C should be considered for all individuals, especially those who:
  • Have cirrhosis
  • Use drugs
  • Drink alcohol
  • Are homeless
  • Have other medical problems
Individuals who should receive therapy from a hepatitis C expert include those who:
  • Had therapy in the past, but it didn't work
  • Possess cirrhosis and have experienced illness as a result of it
  • Possess fluid in the abdomen
  • Feel perplexed
  • Have experienced gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Have received a transplant or might have one in the future
  • Possess coinfection with HIV
  • Have hepatitis b coinfection

How soon do the drugs start to act?

Within the first two weeks, the drugs typically result in a significant decrease in the viral load. For certain patients, the viral load will go undetectable as early as the fourth week. It may take longer for certain people for their viral load to go undetected.

What can people do to optimize the effectiveness of their medications?

  • Take the prescription drugs as directed by your doctor each day.
  • Be in communication with the pharmacist to ensure that all refills are prepared on schedule.
  • Adhere to the prescription drug's instructions exactly, including when to take it with meals or other drugs.
  • Never miss a dosage.
  • Complete all blood tests on schedule.
  • Attend every appointment with the provider as advised.
  • Inform the healthcare professional about all other medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal remedies, and supplements.
  • Finish the whole prescribed dosage.

What does it mean to relapse?

Relapse refers to a situation in which the medication temporarily reduced the hepatitis C virus to an undetectable level before the virus multiplied once again. Options for retreatment should then be addressed with the provider.

How is the treatment going to be monitored by my provider?

During your therapy, you will have meetings with your provider to discuss how well you are handling the medication and go over the results of your lab work.
Tests in the lab assist monitor your condition, monitor the viral load, and assess how you respond to therapy. You will be provided with certain times both during and after the therapy to visit the lab for a blood test.

Side effects of antiviral medications

Antivirals for hepatitis C have negligible or no negative effects. Among the possible negative effects are:
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Disturbed sleep (insomnia)

What about those who have both hepatitis B and hepatitis C?

Patients who are co-infected with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C and are on therapy for hepatitis C may experience a flare-up of the hepatitis B virus.
Patients who are receiving treatment for hepatitis C and also have underlying hepatitis B may be at risk for this, according to reports. The flare-up typically happens a few weeks after the patient begins hepatitis C therapy.
Therefore, before beginning hepatitis C therapy, individuals with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C should consult with a hepatitis expert. In order to prevent a hepatitis B flare-up, these patients may need to begin hepatitis B treatment.

Are there any alternatives to taking medicine to treat hepatitis C?

Sometimes, patients want to know if there are any alternatives to taking medication for treating hepatitis C. As of right now, hepatitis C cannot be prevented by vaccination. Antiviral drugs given by a physician are the only means of treating an infected person.
Some individuals fear they will require a liver transplant if they have hepatitis C. A liver transplant is only necessary in a very tiny percentage of hepatitis C patients.
The vast majority of hepatitis C patients never require a liver transplant. Only in cases when the liver 's damage is so severe that it can no longer carry out its essential tasks is a transplant undertaken.
A liver transplant replaces the patient's failing liver , but it does not cure the patient of the hepatitis C virus. Antiviral drugs are still required for liver transplant patients in order to treat their infection.

Practical advice for using hepatitis C medications

  • Always heed the advise of your medical professionals, especially when it comes to taking your medication.
  • In the event that you must cancel an appointment, give your provider a call and set up a new one right away.
  • Ensure your own well-being. Aim for a full night's sleep, eat healthily, and drink eight to ten glasses of water every day.
  • Find out more about the hepatitis C drugs you are currently taking. This entails particular dangers and cautions.
  • Wear a hat, long sleeves, sunscreen, and restrict your time in the sun if you're on ribavirin.
  • Jot down the name and phone number of your physician. Always keep this information on hand.
  • Put the names and dosages of all the medications you take on paper. Always keep this information on hand.