As opposed to Hepatitis A and B, hepatitis C does not have a vaccination. Treatment of hepatitis C involves the use of direct-acting antiviral drugs that work by eliminating the virus from the body.
If you are diagnosed with hepatitis C, your physician may prescribe you one direct-acting antiviral medication or a cocktail of more than one to be used for the duration of 12-24 weeks, which can sometimes be extended.
While you are in treatment, you also need to take blood tests and see your physician regularly so that he or she can monitor the infection and how well your treatment protocol is working.
Hepatitis C medications have three primary goals:
- Rid the bloodstream of the hepatitis C infection
- Impede the progression of the infection and stop it from causing liver scarring
- Lower the risk of cirrhosis as well as liver cancer
The main factors that play a role in the effectiveness of a treatment regimen are:
- The genotype (strain) of hepatitis C
- Presence of liver scarring (cirrhosis)
- Continuing treatment as directed without missing doses
Hep C Medications: Direct-Acting Antivirals (DAAs)
Before the approval of new direct-acting antivirals, there were only two FDA-approved drugs in use to treat hepatitis C: pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Interferon comes with serious side effects, which resulted in many patients with the infection stopping treatment. Ribavirin, on the other hand, was used in conjunction with interferon to enhance the chance of clearing the virus from the body. Ribavirin is currently still used in conjunction with new direct-acting antivirals.
The new direct-acting antiviral medications work by directly targeting the hepatitis C virus without causing serious, adverse side effects because they do not have an all-encompassing impact on the body. DAAs only cause mild, manageable side effects such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and anemia.
Direct-Acting Antiviral Medications
Olysio. Also known as simeprevir, this medication is a protease inhibitor that is typically used in combination with Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) to treat hepatitis C genotype 1.
Sovaldi. Taken once daily, sofosbuvir is a polymerase inhibitor that is used to treat genotypes 1,2,3, and 4.
Harvoni. Taken once daily, this medication is a combination of sofosbuvir and another new medication known as ledipasvir. Initially only approved for the treatment of genotype 1, the drug was later also approved for the treatment of genotypes 4,5, and 6, as well as those with HIV.
Viekira Pak. Free of interferon, this combination therapy contains ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir and was approved by the FDA for the treatment of genotype 1, as well as those with compensated cirrhosis.
Technivie. A combination of ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir, this medication was approved to treat patients with genotype 4 without liver scarring.
Daklinza. Also known as daclatasvir, this direct-acting antiviral drug is used in combination with sofosbuvir for the treatment of genotype 3. A year later, the drug was also approved for the treatment of genotype 1.
Zepatier. Taken once daily for 12 weeks, containing the drugs elbasvir and grazoprevir, Zepatier is used to treat genotypes 1 and 4 in patients with advanced liver scarring, HIV, or advanced kidney disease.
Epclusa. A combination of sofosbuvir and velpatasvir, Epclusa is taken once a day for the treatment of genotypes 1 through 6 of chronic hepatitis C. The treatment duration is 12 weeks, and the medication was approved for those with or without liver scarring.
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