Hepatitis C Treatments

Individuals with hepatitis C may not know they have been infected, particularly because symptoms are difficult to identify. Symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, and itchy skin can often be attributed to other less serious conditions. If you do suspect you have Hepatitis C, or have been diagnosed with the condition, here are some of the treatment options available to you.

Harvoni

This medication combines two antiviral agents (ledipasvir and sofosbuvir) that work to prevent the hepatitis C virus from spreading in your body. Harvoni is sometimes given as just one part of an overall treatment plan that includes ribavirin.

Serious side effects for harvoni include chest pain, lightheadedness and fainting, decreased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and severe fatigue. Individuals experiencing these side effects should report to their caregiver immediately.

Typical dosage for harvoni is one tablet taken orally, once per day. Each tablet contains 90 mg of ledipasvir and 400 mg of sofosbuvir.

Mavyret

This is another medication that combines two antiviral agents, but, in this case, they are glecaprevir and pibrentasvir. Again, these antiviral properties help to prevent the spread of hepatitis C throughout the body. In some cases, mavyret is prescribed when other courses of treatment have failed.

Patients are cautioned to be especially aware of an allergic reaction to glecaprevir or pibrentasvir, when taking mavyret. Signs of an allergic reaction include rashes; itchy, red, or swollen skin; wheezing; a tightness in the throat or in the chest; or swelling around the face, including the lips, face, and tongue.

Each mavyret tablet contains 100 mg of glecaprevir and 40 mg of pibrentasvir. Typical dosage is three tablets taken once per day and they should be taken with food.

Zepatier

The antiviral agents contained in zepatier are elbasvir and grazoprevir, which also work to prevent hepatitis C from multiplying in the body. This drug is also sometimes administered in combination with ribavirin. Zepatier is only prescribed for patients with specific genetic markers, so your doctor may conduct a DNA test before deciding on a course of treatment.

Side effects may include very dark urine, a fever and/or chills, loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea, fatigue, upper abdominal pain, and a yellowing of the skin or eyes. If these side effects are observed, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Your doctor may alter your dosage or recommend an alternative treatment.

Each zepatier tablet is a combination of 50 mg of elbasvir and 100 mg of grazoprevir. One tablet should be taken once per day and may be taken with or without food.

Generic Drugs Offer a Cheaper Solution

The antiviral agents found in the brand name treatments for hepatitis C can also be purchased individually as generic drugs. Sofosbuvir, ledipasvir, daclatasvir, and ribavirin were found to be as effective in fighting the hepatitis C virus as the previously mentioned brand names.

Currently, brand name treatments can cost as much as $94,000, but generic drugs offer similar results and typically only cost patients $1,000. In coming years, the cost of the generic HCV treatments are expected to drop even lower with estimates placing cost of treatment at $200.

Dr. James Freeman of GP2U Telehealth in Hobart, Australia conducted one study comparing the two methods of treatment. He said he’s excited to find that the cheaper medications are just as effective, because it provides hope that treating the global HCV epidemic could be economically feasible.

Freeman also feels hopeful that the generic treatments improve survival rates for a greater number of patients with hepatitis C. The risk of developing liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver may also be reduced in patients cured of the hepatitis C virus.

Once infected with hepatitis C, individuals can take anywhere from two weeks to six months to observe symptoms. One of the problems this gestation period presents is in the spread of the disease. Even if an infected individual is not showing symptoms, he or she can pass the disease onto others.

Laurent Castera, secretary general of EASL (European Association for the Study of the Liver), says the greater availability of generic drugs can significantly impact the spread of the disease. While hepatitis C can become a debilitating illness, early treatment can cure patients, before they have a chance to spread the virus to others. While it may take time to identify the illness, the availability of affordable treatment means it can be cured sooner rather than later.

Untreated, hepatitis C can increase the risks of developing liver disease, including liver cancer, as well as causing inflammation and scarring of the liver. Seeking treatment from a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms can ultimately save your life and heal a condition that may otherwise lead to extreme lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment options available to you.

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