What is Harvoni?
Harvoni is a new medication for hepatitis C. Compared with previous drug treatments, Harvoni works faster, causes fewer severe side effects, and has a higher cure rate. It can cure hepatitis C in most people in just 12 weeks.
If you have hepatitis C, you probably know it’s an infection in your liver. Because alcohol also affects your liver, you may wonder: Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking Harvoni? Let’s discuss how alcohol could affect your treatment with Harvoni and what you can do about it.
Can you drink alcohol while taking Harvoni?
The answer from several leading organizations is: no. You should not drink alcohol while taking this drug. The HCV Advocate is a nonprofit support group that offers advice for hepatitis C patients. This group recommends that you completely avoid alcohol if you have hepatitis C. This is especially important if you’re having drug treatment for the virus. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus statement agree. They both strongly recommend that you avoid drinking alcohol if you have hepatitis C.
How does alcohol affect people taking Harvoni?
When you have hepatitis C, your liver has an infection. Any extra stress on your liver can affect how well your body fights off the infection. One extra stress is alcohol, since alcohol is processed by your liver. Also, alcohol draws water out of your body, and your body needs water to fight infections. For both of these reasons, alcohol makes it harder for your body to fight the hepatitis C infection.
In addition, when you’re on drug treatment for hepatitis C, the drug must also be processed by your liver. That means the liver has even more work to do. And that makes it even more important for you to avoid alcohol. As for Harvoni, there doesn’t seem to be an interaction that’s specific to Harvoni and alcohol. You should simply avoid drinking alcohol while having any kind of drug treatment for hepatitis C.
Note: If you have hepatitis C and a history of heavy drinking, you could also have liver damage from alcohol. Heavy drinking can cause dangerous conditions such as fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and even cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). You may not have symptoms of this damage until it’s very serious. If you currently drink large amounts of alcohol, talk to your doctor right away. Ask about getting help to stop drinking alcohol while taking Harvoni and afterward.
Pharmacist’s takeaway advice
Don’t risk your future health by drinking alcohol when you have hepatitis C. Avoiding alcohol can help you take control of your health and give your Harvoni treatment the best chance for success.
Your doctor can tell you more about the risks of drinking when you have hepatitis C and while taking Harvoni. Be sure to ask about the risks of drinking after your treatment is finished, even if your hepatitis C is cured.