for Veterans and the Public
Treatment options - Hepatitis C for Patients
How is hepatitis C treated?
There are now more medications available to treat hepatitis C than there have been historically. Treatment for hepatitis C is now done with all-oral medications. These pills, called antiviral medications, are usually taken once per day. The provider treating your hepatitis C may recommend one or a combination of two to three medications to be taken for about 12 weeks. Blood work and office visits are important during this time so that your response to treatment is carefully monitored.These antiviral medications are extremely good at attacking the virus and preventing it from multiplying. These treatments also have very minimal side effects.
The purpose of taking medications to treat hepatitis C is to:
- Clear the virus from your bloodstream
- Slow the advancement of inflammation and scarring of your liver
- Lower your chances of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer
The most important factors that impact treatment results include:
- Taking medications as prescribed and not missing doses
- Your hepatitis C genotype
- The presence of cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver)
Before starting treatment for your hepatitis C, it is important to discuss the following:
- Other medical conditions, including liver disease not related to HCV.
- Other medications you take including herbal supplements, vitamins and over-the-counter medications
- If you are currently breastfeeding or if you plan to breastfeed while on therapy; it is not currently known if hepatitis C medications pass into the breast milk
- If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Some of the medications can cause birth defects and should not be taken by pregnant women or the male partners of pregnant women. Two forms of birth control may be required on certain types of medications and pregnancy may need to be avoided for six months following treatment
Potential treatment outcomes are as follows:
- Sustained virologic response (or SVR): If the hepatitis C virus is not detected in your bloodstream three months after treatment, you are considered cured. This is called a sustained virologic response and the data has indicated that you will stay free of the virus indefinitely. Most people who take the new treatments as prescribed are able to achieve SVR.
- Nonresponse: When the hepatitis C virus does not become undetectable as a result of treatment, you are considered a non-responder. There are two types, 1) partial response is where the viral load decreases, and 2) null-response is where the viral load never drops.
- Relapse: Hepatitis C is undetectable while on therapy but after treatment has been completed the viral load is once again detectable.
- Incomplete treatment: Treatment ends before the actual prescribed duration.
The goal of all hepatitis C treatment is to achieve SVR. This is considered a cure. Adherence to prescribed medication regimens will increase your chances of a cure and minimize your risk for long-term complications associated with hepatitis C.