Hep C Cure: Then Vs. Now
May 07, 2024

Hepatitis C, commonly known as Hep C, is a viral infection that affects the liver. It can lead to serious health problems such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and other health complications if left untreated.

In the past, a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C infection was considered a life sentence, with limited treatment options and low cure rates. However, significant advancements in medical technology and research have revolutionized the treatment landscape for Hep C over the years.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the evolution of hepatitis C treatment, from its early days to the present – and how these changes have greatly improved the chances of a cure for those living with this condition. Let’s get started: 

The Early Days of Hep C Treatment 

The first treatment for the chronic hepatitis C virus was introduced in the late 1980s – a medicine called interferon. An interferon is a protein naturally produced by the body to fight against viruses and other infections. This treatment was often used in combination with another drug called ribavirin.

Unfortunately, this early treatment had many limitations. Those taking interferon often experienced severe side effects such as:

  • Depression/suicidal thoughts
  • Hair loss
  • Gum disease
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Liver damage

In addition, the treatment was not very effective. Only about 6% to 16% of patients were considered cured by the end of the treatment. This led many people to put off seeking treatment or stop taking the medications altogether.

A Revolution in Hep C Treatment: Direct-Acting Antivirals (DAAs)

Fast forward a few decades, and a new class of drugs called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) tablets were introduced to treat Hep C. Unlike interferon, DAAs specifically target the hepatitis C virus and work by blocking a specific protein essential for the virus to replicate.

Here’s what makes DAAs such a game-changer:

  • High Cure Rates

DAAs have been shown to have cure rates of over 90%. This is a significant improvement from the early days of interferon treatment, where only a small percentage of patients were considered cured by the end of treatment. This means that more people have a chance of being cured of chronic and acute hepatitis C.

  • Shorter Treatment Duration 

Another significant advantage of DAAs is the shorter duration of treatment. While interferon treatment could last up to a year, DAAs typically only require 8-12 weeks. This is a huge relief for patients who previously had to endure almost a year of difficult and often ineffective hepatitis c virus infection treatment.

  • Fewer Side Effects

Additionally, DAAs have been shown to have fewer and milder side effects compared to interferon. This means that patients can undergo treatment without experiencing debilitating side effects such as depression or liver damage. This is a significant improvement from the shortcomings of interferon treatment and has made DAA therapy more accessible and appealing for those living with Hep C.

What You Can Expect During DAA Treatment

If you are considering starting a treatment plan with DAAs, here is what you can expect during the treatment process:

What You Can Expect During DAA Treatment

1. Screening and Diagnosis

Before starting DAA treatment, your doctor will first screen you for hepatitis C through a blood test. If the results are positive, they will perform additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, determine the genotype of the virus, and assess the extent of liver disease/damage.

2. Individualized Treatment Plan 

Once diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan based on factors such as your genotype, previous treatments, and overall health. This personalized approach ensures that you receive the most effective treatment for your specific case.

3. Taking Medications

The DAA medications are taken orally and typically come in pill form. Your doctor will provide instructions on how and when to take the medication, as well as any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes.

4. Monitoring Progress

Your doctor will closely monitor your progress throughout the treatment process through regular check-ups and blood tests. This is important in determining the effectiveness of the medications and any potential side effects.

5. Potential Side Effects

While DAAs have significantly reduced the side effects associated with interferon treatment, some patients may still experience mild side effects such as: 

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Skin irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Your doctor will monitor your side effects and may adjust your treatment plan accordingly to minimize any discomfort.

Lifestyle Changes

6. Lifestyle Changes

In addition to taking medications, making lifestyle changes can also improve your overall health and help in the treatment of hepatitis C. These may include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting adequate rest and managing stress

Your doctor may also recommend getting vaccinated for other diseases, such as hepatitis A and B, to prevent further complications. It is important to follow your doctor’s advice and make these lifestyle changes for a successful treatment outcome.

Ready to Begin Your Treatment Journey? 

At Connect to Cure, we are committed to helping individuals with hepatitis C access affordable and effective treatment options. Our team of experts can provide guidance and support throughout your treatment journey. 

Contact us today to learn more and take the first step toward a healthier future.