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Can My Hepatitis C Go into Remission?

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  • Taming Hep C

    Taming Hep C

    About 180 million people worldwide, including 5.2 million Americans, suffer from hepatitis C. The virus spreads mainly through intravenous drug use. Untreated hepatitis can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis and cancer.

    The good news is that with the right treatment, the virus can go into remission. Doctors refer to this remission a “sustained virological response” (SVR).

    Click through the slideshow to learn if your hepatitis C can go into remission.

  • What Does ‘SVR’ Mean?

    What Does ‘SVR’ Mean?

    SVR means the hepatitis C virus cannot be detected in your blood at the six-month mark, after your last dose of treatment.

    It’s very likely that the hepatitis virus is gone permanently. While you can’t say with complete certainty that you are rid of the hepatitis C virus, you are very likely now living without hepatitis C in your life. You can call yourself “in remission” or “HCV negative.”

  • Spontaneous Remission

    Spontaneous Remission

    Between 55 and 85 percent of people infected with hepatitis C stay infected until treated, noted in a comprehensive report in a 2009 edition of Hepatology.

    For some patients, though, hepatitis C can also clear up on its own. Infants and young women in particular may have a chance of the virus clearing itself out of their bodies on its own. This is less likely among older patients.

  • Drug Treatments

    Drug Treatments

    For your best chance of beating the virus into remission, your doctor may prescribe a course of interferon and ribavirin. She may add one of the new protease inhibitors, either boceprevir or telaprevir.

    Newer drugs work to thwart the ability of the hepatitis C virus to reproduce itself. Scientists are testing simeprevir, sofosbuvir and ledipasvir in clinical trials. The goal is to find more effective drugs with fewer side effects.

  • The Importance of Genotypes

    The Importance of Genotypes

    The exact treatment will depend on the genotype or “blueprint” of your hepatitis C virus. Genotypes are assigned based on RNA sequences.

    If you have genotypes 1 or 4 of hepatitis C, you’ll take your medications for 48 weeks. If you have genotypes 2 or 3, your course of treatment will last 24 weeks.

    In the U.S., genotype 1 is the most common type of the virus, and accounts for 75 percent of infections.

  • Who Tends to Clear the Virus?

    Who Tends to Clear the Virus?

    Your viral genotype and your viral load are predictors of your likelihood of clearing the virus. Chances are highest if you have genotype 2 or 3 and a viral load under 6000,000 IU/mL.

    Other factors also predict, but to a lesser degree, the likelihood of a remission. These include:

    • female gender
    • under 40 years old
    • race other than African-American
    • a body weight under 165 pounds
    • absence of insulin resistance
    • absence of fibrosis or cirrhosis found during a liver biopsy.
  • The Non-Responders

    The Non-Responders

    Between 20 and 50 percent of patients do not respond to hepatitis C therapy. If you are in this category, you and your doctor can explore other options. 

    If you were treated in your first round with only interferon, your doctor may recommend a second round of interferon with ribavirin. You can keep your eye on FDA approvals of newer drugs and clinical trials. Or your doctor may recommend you as a candidate for a liver transplant.

  • Sticking with Treatment

    Sticking with Treatment

    For your best chance of remission, you need to adhere to your treatment regimen.

    Side effects of drugs used to treat hepatitis C include fatigue, depression, symptoms resembling flu, gastrointestinal upset and anemia.

    You can talk to your doctor about reducing your dose if you are suffering from side effects. Ask for support particularly if you are feeling depressed. Your doctor may have patient advocate resources to get you through your treatment and to your goal of being HPV-C free.