Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a stubborn but common virus that attacks the liver. About 3.5 million people in the United States have chronic, or long-term, hepatitis C.
It can be difficult for the human immune system to fight HCV. Fortunately, there are several drugs available to treat hepatitis C. Read on to learn more about hepatitis C treatments and their side effects.
The main types of HCV medications prescribed today are direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) and ribavirin. In rare cases where DAAs are not accessible, interferons may be prescribed.
Today, DAAs are the standard of care for those with chronic hepatitis C. Unlike previous treatments, which could only help people manage their condition, DAAs can cure HCV infection at a much higher rate.
These drugs may be available as individual drugs or as part of a combination therapy. All of these medications are taken orally.
- daclatasvir (Daklinza)
- simeprevir (Olysio)
- sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)
- Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir)
- Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir)
- Mavyret (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir)
- Technivie (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir)
- Viekira Pak (dasabuvir + ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir)
- Vosevi (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir)
- Zepatier (elbasvir/grazoprevir)
Ribavirin is a medication used in combination with other drugs to treat HCV. It used to be prescribed primarily with interferons. Today it’s used with certain DAAs against resistant HCV infection. Ribavirin is often used with Zepatier, Viekira Pak, Harvoni, and Technivie.
Interferons are medications that used to be the primary treatment for HCV. In recent years, DAAs have taken over that role. That’s largely because DAAs cause far fewer side effects than interferons do. DAAs are also able to cure HCV with higher frequency.
Title: Healthy habits
While side effects are an understandable concern during treatment for hepatitis C, you should also focus on being in good health. You should eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet and make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. It’s also important to avoid smoking and alcohol since these habits can have a very negative effect on the health of people with hepatitis C.
Side effects vary according to the type of drug used to treat HCV.
DAAs don’t cause the number of side effects that interferons do. They’re more targeted and don’t affect as many systems in your body. Side effects of DAAs can include:
- slow heart rate
- raised liver markers, which can indicate liver problems
The more common side effects of ribavirin can include:
- nausea and vomiting
- changes in your ability to taste
- memory loss
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- muscle pain
- hemolytic anemia
A more serious side effect of ribavirin relates to pregnancy. Ribavirin may cause birth defects if taken while pregnant. It may also cause birth defects if a man fathers a child during his treatment with ribavirin.
The more common side effects of interferons can include:
- dry mouth
- excessive fatigue
- mood changes, such as anxiety or depression
- trouble sleeping
- weight loss
- hair loss
- worsening hepatitis symptoms
Other more serious side effects can happen over time. These side effects may include:
- autoimmune disorders
- reduced red and white blood cell levels which can lead to anemia and infection
- high blood pressure
- reduced thyroid function
- changes in vision
- liver disease
- lung disease
- inflammation of your bowel or pancreas
- allergic reaction
- slowed growth in children
In the past, severe side effects from interferons caused many people to stop their HCV treatment. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, as DAAs are now the standard of care. These drugs cause far fewer side effects than interferons did, and many of those they do cause often go away with time.
If you’re being treated for HCV and have side effects that bother or concern you, be sure to talk with your doctor. They can help relieve these side effects by reducing your dosage or switching you to another medication.