New drugs are making big improvements in the way you get treated for hepatitis C. More and more, the goal of a "cure" is now in reach.
As treatments get better, nearly everyone with hep C may be able to look forward to a disease-free future.
The Road to a Cure
A turning point in finding a cure came when doctors began treating the disease with interferon in the 1990s. The drug boosts your immune system, your body's defense against germs, to help it fight off the hep C virus.
Next came the use of ribavirin, another drug that fights the virus. You take it with interferon to improve treatment. Thanks to this combo, the cure rate jumped from less than 5% in the 1980s to about 50% by the early 2000s.
Combining telaprevir or boceprevir with interferon and ribavirin pushed success rates as high as 70%. But the drug combination still wasn't ideal.
"Adding that third drug increased the side effects tremendously," says Anna Lok, MD.
The New Standard in Hepatitis C Treatment
In 2013 and 2014, the FDA approved four new drug products:
- Ledipasvir-sofosbuvir ( Harvoni)
- Ombitasvir-paritaprevir-dasabuvir- ritonavir (Viekira Pak)
- Simeprevir (Olysio)
- Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)
Your treatment will depend on many things including what type of hepatitis C virus you have. In the U.S., the most common type is genotype 1, followed by genotypes 2 and 3. Genotypes 4,5 and 6 are very rare in the U.S.
Ledipasvir-sofosbuvir is the first combination pill used to treat hepatitis virus genotype 1 and can be taken without interferon and ribavirin.