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A Common Concern: What Are the Side Effects of Treatment?

This is a question I hear a lot from people who are starting their hep C treatment. It is a question any of us have asked, or would ask, no matter what the treatment is. Unquestionably, this is a new and changing era in treating hep c, with recent treatments being far less unpleasant and much shorter in duration. This is a major shift away from the older therapy, which had very difficult side effects, discouraging many from seeking treatment. As someone who experienced this type of older treatment many years back, the length of treatment was long and grueling, to say the least.

Meeting in the middle

When people ask me about side effects of hep C treatment, I say what I have seen and heard from real-world experience. There is no way to accurately predict side effects. As an extreme example, some say they have never felt worse, while other say they haven’t felt better in years. The majority of people are somewhere in the middle. That doesn’t mean that you or anyone else will have any side effects at all, but if you do, you may only experience them in brief periods.

What about DAA’s?

When people ask about the side effects of direct-acting antivirals (DAA’s), I answer based on the reports I have read and things I have heard from people who have used them. As you might imagine, it’s a mixed bag, just like any other drug we might use. Some of us are more sensitive to drugs, just like everything else, so it’s no surprise that the experiences vary quite a bit.

Don’t go looking for trouble

Like I said, it is a familiar story for some of us, with no accurate way to predict how any one person will respond to any therapy. In clinical trials, these drugs have been proven to be safe, and their effectiveness in eradicating the virus (efficacy) is excellent. One of the main beliefs is that we should avoid looking for side effects. Why? Because they may never appear to be significant enough for us to be concerned.

This is not to say that there cannot be some side effects, and some that may be serious for a limited number of people. If you do have any side effect that concerns you, considering contacting your treating physician or nurse.

Trust your providers

There are protocols for testing and assessing any person who is seeking treatment, and your medical team will follow these. Many factors (such as certain pre-existing conditions, HCV genotype, liver condition, and whether a person has prior treatment experience) do affect length of therapy and which drug should be used. Some people (such as those who have prior treatment experiences, have advanced liver fibrosis, and/or have any extra-hepatic manifestations, meaning conditions outside of the liver) may require further assessment.

Overall, try not to worry about what might happen. Instead, focus on the prize at the end of this journey, and that is to be free of hep C. If you are just starting treatment, that is your goal, so don’t assume that you will have side effects that are difficult, because in the end, you might not!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.