Your liver is necessary for your survival. It’s important to a range of functions: from digestion and toxin removal to blood clotting and preventing infections. Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver. The virus itself doesn’t destroy the liver cells, but it causes liver inflammation (swelling). This swelling leads to liver malfunction over time, and eventually scarring of the liver.
Hepatitis C can have life-threatening consequences if it’s left untreated. It can lead to liver disease or cancer in some people with the virus. Some cases are especially difficult to treat, so researchers are constantly trying to find new treatments.
Hepatitis C clinical trials examine potential treatment options before they’re introduced to the general population.
Role of Hepatitis C Clinical Trials
Clinical trials help identify innovations in hepatitis C treatment and care. Some trials focus on acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing) cases of the disease. Acute hepatitis C lasts for under six months, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Chronic cases last longer.
Acute cases may go away without treatment, but your body can’t get rid of chronic hepatitis C on its own. This is where advanced treatments play an important role. Hepatitis C clinical trials investigate the following types of treatments:
- lifestyle changes
Some studies also focus on early identification of infected people. This can help lower their risk for complications like liver damage. Other trials might study recently diagnosed patients. Drug companies must prove that any new treatments are safe and effective before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can approve them.
Hepatitis C clinical trials occur on a continual basis across the country. Clinical trials for chronic hepatitis C are among the highest in demand. The key is finding studies that you’re eligible for.
Factors can include:
- acute vs. chronic hepatitis C
- extent of liver damage
- types of treatments you have tried
- negative responses to other treatments
Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with infected blood. Some clinical trials focus on hepatitis C patients infected with other illnesses that are transmitted by similar methods. For example, HIV patients are at a high risk for contracting hepatitis C. And hepatitis C-associated liver disease is more aggressive in people with HIV, so some studies are dedicated to HIV/hepatitis C co-infection. Some trials look for patients with hepatitis B or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Participating in a clinical trial is a big decision, but it’s often gratifying. It gives you the opportunity to help other patients and gain access to treatments that may work for you. If you decide to participate, search for a study with an active recruiting status and read over the requirements. (Some trials are more involved than others, and may require extensive travel and hospital stays.) Talk with your doctor to determine if you’d be a fit. Be sure to discuss potential risks of a study.