Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Get Treated for Hepatitis C
“Why should I get treated for hepatitis C”? On the surface, this might seem like an obvious question and answer. Maybe you’re thinking, “Why wouldn’t you get cured of hepatitis C?”. But, often, there is some trepidation for those getting their first treatment for hep C.
Some patients are fearful of older treatments
One reason is the history of hep C treatments. The history is unfortunately replete with draconian stories of the medications’ effects and low success rates. Those treated with interferon alfa-2B (Intron A), that was often combined with ribavirin, often experienced hallucinations, night sweats, headaches, nausea, chills, increased depression, and many other side effects. For those patients who endured these effects or had heard stories from others who did, a healthy skepticism grew about talk of a new “miracle” treatment.
In addition, research to develop new treatments had long been a low priority among pharmaceuticals companies and federal funding was woefully inadequate, so many felt fatalistic about the illness. Another deterrent is that these new treatments inherently lacked documentation of the long-term effects. Thus, when the “miracle antiviral medications” came online, many patients justifiably believed it was too good to be true, and were fearful of the unknown long term effects, since most clinical tests didn’t assess the 20+ year results.
Some patients worry about the time-commitment
Some potential patients may be intimidated that they will have to incorporate extensive doctor’s visits into their schedules and that the time and transportation constraints will be onerous. In my case, I was given a 1-month supply and had a phone “check-in” conversation with a specialist pharmacist, and then had to pick up the medication at the hospital. In the end, it was a commitment of 3 medication pick-ups and 3 phone consultations, with a time commitment that I would define as minimal.
The wonders of new treatments
While the treatment history of hep C has been checkered, these newer treatment regimens have only been available since 2013-2015, with the most popular being the NS3/4A protease inhibitors. Most of these treatments are taken orally, once a day for 3 months. The cure rates (depending on the genotype the patient has) are 90-100%, which is an astounding change given the low rates of cure from those used just 10 years prior. The side effects can vary, but for the most part, the impacts to one’s lifestyle are fairly minimal; thus, one can continue to work, workout, sleep, and eat as normal.
Reasons to get cured
- Minimize or reverse damage to the liver, including reversal of fibrosis
- Improve liver function
- Improve sleep quality
- Improve mental health and wellbeing
- Reduce risk of diabetes.
- Reduce risk of liver cancer
- Reduce intestinal and bowel problems.
- Increase energy levels and overall health
Worried about cost?
Equally significant are limitations that maybe economic. The treatments are expensive, roughly $1,000 per pill depending on the specific medication with a treatment length of about 3 months. At one a pill a day, that’s about $90,000 for the entire treatment. Many insurance providers will cover some or all of the costs. However, for those without insurance, or policies that won’t cover the majority of the costs, it’s clearly a significant, but potentially life-saving investment. There are several organizations, including some pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead Support Path, that will help fund treatments for eligible patients. See this link (from HepatitisC.net advocate Connie Welch) for a more extensive resource list.