for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is it so important to take the new hepatitis C drugs correctly?
The newest drugs for hepatitis C--boceprevir and telaprevir--are called direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) because they directly attack the hepatitis C virus. If too little of the drug is taken, or at the wrong times, the hepatitis C virus can develop resistance and fail to respond to the drug.
Here's how it happens: The hepatitis C virus is constantly making copies of itself, and each time this happens small changes can get introduced. These changes are called mutations. As the mutated virus makes more copies of itself, more changes occur, until the new virus is not the same as the original virus.
When antiviral drugs are taken incorrectly, the virus isn't completely killed. Instead it rapidly creates mutations and becomes different enough from the targeted virus to escape the drug's attack. This is called drug resistance.
Developing drug resistance is a serious issue. It means that the virus has escaped the drugs and treatment won't work. Also, it could mean a patient won't respond to future hepatitis C treatments.
To prevent drug resistance, it is important to take any medication correctly, but especially DAAs such as boceprevir and telaprevir:
- Each MUST be used with pegylated interferon and ribavirin.
- Each MUST be taken in the correct dose and at the correct times.
Resistance can develop quickly. It is very important to take these new antiviral medications according to instructions, on schedule, and not to skip or reduce doses.