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Digestive Diseases and Hepatitis C

What's the Treatment for Hepatitis C? continued...

The virus can be eliminated from the blood in about 55% of those receiving treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin. Seventy percent to 80% of people with hepatitis C types 2 and 3 are cured with treatment. Forty percent to 45% of people with type 1 hepatitis C become cured.

Treatment may also involve the use of other drugs to counteract the drops in blood cell counts that occur with interferon. Ribavirin by itself doesn't work.

Incivek and Victrelis are also approved as add-on therapy that can boost the chances that hepatitis C will be cured. They both target the HCV protease enzyme, making it nearly impossible for the virus to replicate. Although the virus quickly becomes resistant to either drug used alone, combination therapy with interferon and ribavirin keeps HCV in check. This is an area of active research and new drugs are currently in development.

Side Effects of Hepatitis C Treatment

Side effects of interferon treatment for hepatitis C include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Low blood counts
  • Trouble thinking
  • Agitation
  • Depression

In addition to the side effects of interferon, ribavirin can cause low red blood cell counts. Also, the FDA has warned that it has received reports of a serious skin rash from combination treatment with Incivek, which has led to several deaths.

Can You Prevent Hepatitis C Infection?

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Tips to avoid contracting the virus are:

  • Use a latex condom each time you have sex.
  • Don't share personal care items such as razors.
  • Beware of getting a tattoo or body piercing. The equipment being used may have someone else's blood on it.
  • Prevent transmission by not donating blood or tissue if you are infected.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 12, 2012

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