About Hepatitis C Virus


Hepatitis C (HCV) is a blood-borne viral infection which can, over decades, lead to liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, and in some patients liver cancer and death. It is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, and in rare cases, sexual transmission. Approximately 4 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C; however, only 25 to 30% have been diagnosed. The diagnosis is made by specific laboratory (blood) testing. Liver biopsy or other liver function tests may be recommended to assess the degree of fibrosis and need for treatment.  

There are high rates of hepatitis C in prisons and jails. Read our Overview of Hepatitis C in Prisons and Jails for more information.

At the end of 2013, two new medications were approved to treat hepatitis C. One is called Olysio (simeprevir) and the other is called Sovaldi (sofosbuvir). These two new drugs generally produce higher cure rates with fewer side effects than previous medications. Some but not all patients may now also be cured without using interferon.

Current treatment for hepatitis C lasts 12-48 weeks and results in a cure for between 70-90% of patients. Previously, treatment consisted of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, which resulted in viral clearance in approximately 50% of those patients treated.  In 2011 two new medications were added to standard hepatitis C treatment; both drugs are protease inhibitors and they are manufactured by different companies.  One is called Victrelis (boceprevir) and the other is called Incivek (telaprevir).  Patients who are treated with one of these two drugs will also take interferon and ribavirin; Until recently, this triple combination therapy was the current standard of care and it produces cure rates of 70-75%. 

Currently, depending on a patient's gentoype, he or she would take 2 or 3 of the 5 available medications for between 12 and 48 weeks, and most patients who go through treatment are cured of HCV. Treatment is complicated however, and individual patients should work closely with their medical provider to determine when treatment is appropriate and with which medications. While interferon-free treatments are now emerging and interferon-based treatments are improving, do know that treatment will still require many patients to take interferon.

The Hepatitis Education Project is a great resource. We can be contacted if you have questions. Please visit our webpage at www.hepeducation.org.


Learn more about hepatitis C from HCV Advocate:

HCV in Incarceration Fact Sheet
Hepatitis C Basics

Testing Positive Now What?
Hepatitis & Tattoos
Frequently Asked Questions about Sexual Transmission
Nutrition & Hepatitis C
                

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