Following Your Hepatitis C Treatment Program
Following your hepatitis C treatment program exactly as your healthcare provider explains it offers you the best chance for a successful response to treatment. It can take up to 48 weeks to complete a program of HCV combination therapy, so persistence is the key. When following your hepatitis C treatment program, it's important to drink lots of water, juice, or other clear fluids.
Benefits of Following Your Hepatitis C Treatment ProgramThe goal when taking combination therapy is to get rid of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) completely. This is also called "clearing the virus." By clearing the virus, you may be able to:
- Bring down the swelling of the liver
- Stop the scarring and fibrosis
- Possibly reverse some of the liver damage caused by the hepatitis C.
Clearing the virus may also bring down the long-term risk of liver cancer.
To get the best effect possible, you may need to be on the combination therapy for several months, although some regimens are shorter than others. If you stop taking the medications before your treatment program is finished or do not take the right amount (or if you do not take it as often as directed) you will not get the full effect of the medication.
Studies show that about 56 to 60 percent of people who complete their treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin have a successful response -- called a sustained virological response, or SVR. This means that 6 months after finishing the treatment, no virus RNA is detected in their blood. The success rate is even greater with some of the newer regimens.
One important factor in how people respond to combination therapy is the type of the virus causing the hepatitis C. This is also known as the genotype. There are 6 main genotypes of the hepatitis C virus: genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Genotypes 1, 2, and 3 are the most common in the United States. People with genotype 1 generally respond less well to combination therapy than people with genotypes 2 or 3. Additional factors, such as race and age, can also affect how well a person responds to the therapy. Other eMedTV articles provide more detailed information about:
- Genotype 1 and Hepatitis C Treatment
- African Americans and Hepatitis C Treatment
- Seniors and Hepatitis C Treatment.
Other factors that may affect the success of a person's hepatitis C treatment program include:
- The amount of virus in the body (also known as the viral load)
- How long the person has had the virus
- The amount of damage already done to the liver.
People with a low level of virus, and those with very little scarring on their liver before beginning treatment, tend to respond better to combination therapy.
Because every situation is different, your response to treatment for hepatitis C will depend on several of these factors. Your healthcare provider can discuss your individual situation with you in more detail.