New Hepatitis C Treatment Improves Cure Rate
Hepatitis C can be a difficult disease to treat, but researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have found a way to improve the cure rate. The addition of an anti-viral drug to the standard treatment program has shown promising results in difficult-to-treat patients.
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). About 15 percent of cases are acute, which means the immune system is able to destroy the virus. In about 85 percent of people with the disease, the immune system is unable to fight the infection, and these individuals end up with long-term liver infection, or chronic hepatitis C.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C, although some sources state a higher figure of 3.9 million. About 17,000 new cases of hepatitis C are reported each year. In the United States, 70 percent of people with the disease have the genotype 1 form, which is the most difficult to treat.
Although the genotype 1 form of the disease often displays no symptoms for many years, presence of the infection over the years can cause cirrhosis and eventually result in liver cancer or the need for a liver transplant.
New Treatment for Hepatitis C
Fewer than half of patients who have genotype 1 hepatitis C get an effective response from the standard treatment, which includes peginterferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin, which patients usually take for 48 weeks. Use of these two drugs is associated with anemia and other significant side effects, including headache, anxiety, depression, hair loss, muscle pain, joint pain, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, fever, and fatigue.