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Understanding Hepatitis -- Diagnosis and Treatment

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Doctors sometimes recommend drug therapy for people with certain types of hepatitis. Antiviral medication for hepatitis B includes interferon, peginterferon, lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera), entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread), and telbivudine (Tyzeka). Until recently, the standard treatment for chronic hepatitis C was a course of peginterferon plus ribavirin for people with genotype 2 and 3, and peginterferon plus ribavirin plus a protease inhibitor – either Incivek or Victrelis for people with genotype 1. These treatments had  been shown to be effective in from 50% to 80% of those infected with hepatitis C.

In late 2013, two new direct acting antiviral drugs, sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and simeprevir (Olysio) were approved by the FDA to treat chronic HCV infection. They are effective in 80%-95% of patients. Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) blocks a protein needed by the hepatitis C virus to multiply. It is approved for use with pegylated interferon and ribavirin for HCV genotype 1 and 4 infections, and with ribavirin for adults with HCV genotype 2 and 3 infection. This is the first time an interferon-free regimen has been approved to treat chronic hepatitis C. Imeprevir (Olysio) also blocks a protein needed by the hepatitis C virus to multiply. It is approved for use with peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin for genotype 1 infections only.

Also, most drugs have at one time or another been implicated as a cause of liver damage. If you currently have hepatitis, or if you have a history of liver disease or other liver problems, tell your health care provider before taking any medication – either prescription or over-the-counter, including herbal therapies. 

Hepatitis in Pregnant Women

Hepatitis in pregnant women usually does not increase the risk of birth defects or other pregnancy problems, and infection of the unborn baby is rare. However, hepatitis E can be fatal to a pregnant woman during her third trimester, and if the mother has hepatitis B, the baby is likely to contract the disease at birth. 

If you are pregnant, your doctor will test you for hepatitis B; if you are infected with the virus, your baby will be given immune globulin shots and a hepatitis vaccination. This will help protect your baby from contracting the virus. In addition, it may be recommended that a mother with active HBV receive treatment with an antiviral medication during the third trimester of pregnancy.

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