A hep C virus has shapes coming off of it that turn into hexagonal stop sign shapes.

New Hepatitis C Treatments Are Paving The Way To Longer Life Expectancy

The newest class of hepatitis C drugs, direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), have changed the way the virus is treated. However, we don’t have much information on their long-term effects. While many are hopeful that these drugs will have a huge impact on the virus, we still have a lot to learn. The good news is, the research that has started coming in about these drugs has been exciting so far. One study from a large health care system in California concluded that people with hepatitis C may be living longer than ever before.1

What are direct-acting antivirals?

DAAs are drugs that target specific steps in the hepatitis C virus’s life cycle. They stop the virus from replicating within the body. These drugs have incredibly high cure rates and few side effects. Also, treatment generally only lasts a couple of months. This is much different than older treatments with interferon and ribavirin. (Treatment with these older options had many side effects, low cure rates, and lasted for a year or more.)

Although the first of these new drugs were very expensive when they hit the market, additional DAA drugs and financial assistance programs have helped many people with hepatitis C get the treatment they need.

What does the research say?

The study out of California looked at over 25,000 people with hepatitis C and almost 5 million without hepatitis C were. The researchers determined overall life expectancy, or how long a person is expected to live, after 20 years old. Overall, life expectancy increased for people with hepatitis C in the new DAA era. On average, people with the virus were living almost 2 years longer. The average life expectancy after age 20 for people with hepatitis C in the interferon era was 49 years. But now, in the beginning of the DAA era, it was estimated to be 51 years. The overall life expectancy increase for people without hepatitis C during this time was only 0.3 years.

This study included all people with hepatitis C, even if they didn’t get treatment. Life expectancy is predicted to increase even further as more people are able to get DAAs in the future.

Which patients might benefit?

Although the average increase in life expectancy increased by 2 years in the DAA period, there were some specific groups that had even larger improvements. For example, females had an increase in life expectancy of 3.3 years, compared to males at 1.2 years. Additionally, while White people with hepatitis C had an increase in life expectancy of 0.4 years, Latino and Asian individuals with hepatitis C had increases of about 7 and 6 years. Black people had an increase of 5 years.

These results suggest that some differences in treatment or access to new drugs may be improving for minority groups, improving life expectancy. These are all promising results that point toward positive long-term outcomes of DAA treatment.

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