There is Hope for Patients With Hepatitis C
Although Hepatitis C has only recently been discovered it is not the end of the road for those who carry it. Ten years ago alpha interferon was first approved to treat this disease. According to the Digestive Diseases website, 'Alpha interferon is a host protein that is made in response to viral infections and has natural antiviral activity. Recombinant forms of alpha interferon have been produced, and several formulations (alfa-2a, alfa-2b, consensus interferon) are available as therapy for hepatitis C.' It is recommended that Hepatitis C patients use combination therapy to treat the HCV virus. It is very common to combine Ribavirin, an oral anitviral agent, with interferon to increase an elongated response.
Patients have to go through this combination therapy for a staggering 48 weeks! In 70% of patients this therapy leads to a decrease in detectable HCV RNA. Long term improvement however, is only achieved if the HCV RNA remains undetected after therapy has stopped. 55 % of patients participating in this type of therapy respond and HCV remains undetected after therapy is discontinued. I found it interesting that the duration of the treatment actually depends on the patient's genotype. Those with genotype 2 and 3 usually respond to the treatment within 24 weeks, but those with genotype 1 have a greater response after 48 weeks.
Taking alpha interferon, or the more effective peginterferon, is no walk in the park. According to MayoClinic.com, side effects can include the following:
- muscle aches
- nausea and vomiting
- skin irritation at the injection site
- low-grade fever
- weight loss
- mild bone marrow suppression
- hair loss (reversible)
More than 10% of patients experience one or more of these side effects during some point in the treatment.
The side effects of the Ribavirin include:
- fatigue and irritability
- skin rash
- nasal stuffiness, sinusitis, and cough