An estimated 2.4 million Americans had chronic hepatitis C in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If left untreated, this long-term liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, can cause life threatening damage to your liver.

A decade ago, there were few treatment options available for hepatitis C. And the ones that were available had unpleasant side effects.

Thanks to new generations of antiviral medications, most people can be cured of this illness. Whereas the old class of medications boosted the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus, the new antiviral medications target the virus specifically. They also work to prevent the virus from replicating so that once it’s cleared out of the body, no traces remain.

Read on to learn how new treatment approaches have affected the cure rate for hepatitis C.

In the past, most people with hepatitis C were treated with a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin.

In recent years, newer antiviral treatment approaches have been developed. However, direct-acting antiviral medications are still underutilized in spite of their cure rate. A 2022 study found that only only 2 of 3 patients eligible received antiviral treatment.

Antiviral approaches have a cure rate of more than 90 percent. They include the following combinations of antiviral drugs:

  • daclatasvir (Daklinza)
  • sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)
  • sofosbuvir/velpatasvir (Epclusa)
  • sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir (Vosevi)
  • elbasvir/grazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (Mavyret)
  • ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni)
  • ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir (Technivie)
  • ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir and dasabuvir (Viekira Pak)
  • simeprevir (Olysio)

To learn about the potential benefits and risks of each approach, talk with your doctor. Some treatment approaches might be more promising than others, depending on the virus strain that’s affecting you, the condition of your liver, and your overall health.

If your first course of prescribed treatment doesn’t cure hepatitis C, your doctor will likely prescribe another course of treatment with different medications. But unlike the older treatments, the new hepatitis C treatments typically cure people in one cycle, and there may be less need to try a bunch of different medications for different amounts of time.

The new class of drugs has also been found to be well-tolerated by most, according to a 2021 clinical trial study’s conclusions.

Acute hepatitis C develops within the first 6 months of someone contracting the virus. It rarely causes severe symptoms. Many people don’t even realize they have it.

In some cases, acute hepatitis C resolves on its own without treatment. But in 70% of cases, it develops into chronic hepatitis C, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Generally, if you have acute hepatitis C, your doctor will monitor your condition but won’t offer any specific treatment. Acute hepatitis C typically clears up on its own after 6 months.

If chronic hepatitis C develops, your doctor will prescribe medication to treat it. The cure rates discussed above are for chronic hepatitis C.

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, your doctor will order blood tests to learn which subtype of virus is causing the infection.

There are six main genotypes (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) of hepatitis C. These genotypes differ from one another at a genetic level. Some genotypes of the virus are more resistant to certain types of medication compared to others. The virus can also mutate in ways that make it more resistant to treatment.

Your recommended treatment plan will depend in part on the specific strain of hepatitis C that’s causing your condition. Your doctor can explain how it might affect your treatment options and long-term outlook.

If you’re treated for hepatitis C, your doctor will order blood tests during and after your treatment to learn how the medication has affected you.

If the virus is no longer detectable in your blood 12 weeks after your last dose of antiviral medication, you will be considered cured of hepatitis C. This is also known as a sustained virologic response (SVR). About 99% of people who achieve SVR remain free of hepatitis C for the rest of their lives.

Antiviral treatment can clear the hepatitis C virus from your body. This will stop the virus from causing more damage to your liver. But it won’t reverse any liver damage that you’ve already experienced.

If you’ve developed liver scarring from hepatitis C, ask your doctor how you can manage it. You may be encouraged to undergo regular ultrasound exams or other tests to monitor the health of your liver, even after the infection has been cured.

If needed, your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes, medications, or other treatments to help address symptoms or complications of liver damage. In some cases, you might be a candidate for liver transplantation.

Most people with chronic hepatitis C can be cured of the infection. If your first course of treatment is unsuccessful, your doctor may prescribe another course of treatment with different medications.

Although antiviral medications can cure the infection, they won’t reverse any damage that hepatitis might have caused your liver. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your condition, treatment options, and long-term outlook.