Longer Hepatitis C Treatment Best
Cure Rates Are Higher With Longer Treatment of 6 Months
Individualized Hepatitis C Treatment
Shiffman understands the desire of patients and doctors to shorten treatment. The drugs used to treat hepatitis C are very expensive and they can cause severe fatigue, fever, depression, and other hard-to-tolerate side effects.
But he says a better strategy than shortening treatment is lowering drug dosage in patients who have trouble tolerating hepatitis C treatments.
He adds that rapid response to treatment has become as important as viral genotype for predicting response to treatment.
Patients who show no signs of hepatitis C infection within a month of beginning treatment have a 90% cure rate, regardless of genotype, he says.
“We are learning that the optimal way to treat hepatitis C is to monitor the virus during treatment, no matter what the genotype, and adjust treatment duration based on response.”
T. Jake Liang, MD, of the National Institutes of Health, says this individualized approach to hepatitis C treatment will become more common as more is learned about the virus.
Liang is chief of the liver disease branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“As our technology improves we will be more able to identify patients who will benefit from a shorter course of treatment,” he tells WebMD. “For now, though, genotype 2 and 3 patients who can tolerate the treatment should remain on it for a full six months.”