New Hepatitis C Treatments on the Horizon

Very high cure rates are possible with new Hepatitis C treatments, according to clinical trial results recently revealed at the International Liver Conference in London.

The research–some of which the North Shore-LIJ Center for Liver Disease conducted and that I cowrote for the New England Journal of Medicine–evaluated promising new Hepatitis C treatments. For instance, the ION-3 clinical trial identified drug combinations that led to cure rates of more than 93 percent.

ION-3 investigated a combination of two medications (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) in a single formulation with and without ribavirin for eight and 12 weeks. Previously, Hep C patients needed to combine three drugs–including interferon injections—for 12, 24 or 48 weeks. Now, with ION-3, patients can take a single pill for eight weeks and benefit from cure rates significantly higher than any other previous therapy.

Furthermore, ION-3 revealed no significant side effects, which were a hurdle in early medication regimens. And since the new Hepatitis C treatments are more convenient, proper compliance is easier for patients.

The Dangers of Hepatitis C

A virus causes Hepatitis C. The disease leads to swelling in the liver. People who have Hepatitis C usually feel no symptoms, yet it is still dangerous because long-term liver inflammation causes the organ to become permanently scarred (cirrhosis). Scarred livers do not heal or return to normal function, which can set off a domino effect of serious health problems.

Doctors use blood tests to check for Hepatitis C. Anyone born from 1945 to 1965 should get screened at least once for it, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the National Institutes of Health recommends:

  • Never share hypodermic needles with anyone.
  • Only get tattoos or body piercings or receive acupuncture from a practitioner with a permit or license.
  • Do not share personal care items like razors and toothbrushes.
  • Practice safer sex.
  • If you are a health care worker, follow all safety procedures when handling blood.

The virus does not spread by casual contact (holding hands, kissing, coughing/sneezing, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses). If you or your partner has Hep C and you have maintained an exclusive relationship, the risk of transmitting the virus to or from the other person is low.

Board-certified physicians at the North Shore-LIJ Center for Liver Disease provide specialized therapy and management for liver disease, including new Hepatitis C treatments. Through our clinical trials, we work to increase our understanding of the nature and behavior of liver disease in order to develop more effective treatment. Call 855-60-LIVER to learn more.

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