Effectiveness of Ultra-Short Hep C Treatments

Editors note: Always consult your doctor before starting or changing your treatment regimen.

There is a lot of appeal for shorter courses of therapy for health treatments. Whether it is antibiotic therapy or antiviral therapy, shorter courses typically come equipped with fewer side effects and less cost.

However, the main concern is whether shorter treatments are just as effective as the standard treatment duration.

How long are typical hep C antiviral treatments?

Most of the approved antivirals used to treat hep C are used for 8 to 12 weeks in duration.1 For some people, it may be even longer.

These medications must be taken daily, and for some people, it may be challenging to adhere to a regimen of this length. In fact, 92% of patients miss one or more doses during their hep C treatment course.1

Are ultra-short term treatments effective?

A recent study examined the effectiveness of ultra-short treatments, such as 4-6 weeks, instead of the typical 8-12 week duration.2 There are several potential benefits to short-term treatments, including:

  • Better adherence (compliance) to therapy
  • Can achieve cure in some people

A concern with ultra-short hep C treatments is that they can be associated with a higher failure rate. The study examined whether this was true.

The study gathered participants diagnosed with hep C with similar characteristics, such as mild liver disease (no cirrhosis) and a viral load below a specified threshold. Some of the participants were administered a 4-7 week course of an antiviral (the ultra-short treatment), and the others were given the standard 8-12 weeks.2

The results of the study showed a very different response between the two groups.2 By the end of the study:

  • 91% of people in the standard duration (8-12 weeks) group achieved a sustained virologic response (a cure)
  • 48% of people in the ultra-short course achieved a sustained virologic response

What the study results mean

The study concluded that while some people can be effectively cured with an ultra-short treatment course, the higher failure rate does not warrant its routine adoption. People not studied, such as those with cirrhosis, may have even worse responses to the ultra-short courses.2

Tips to help you remember to take your medication

If you are about to embark on your hep C treatment, it may be tempting to want to finish treatment as fast as possible. However, a few more weeks of treatment can go a long way in increasing your chances of success.

To improve adherence to your medication, there are several tips you can consider implementing:

  • Leaving the medication in an area where you visit and frequent daily.
  • Setting alarms on your phone.
  • Using a medication reminder application installed on your smartphone. Medisafe is an example of a free app you can download to help set reminders.
  • Celebrate each week of therapy you complete - treating yourself in a small way, such as with a dinner to reward yourself, may help keep you motivated as you progress through treatment.

How long was your Hep C treatment? What helped you stay the course? Share your experiences below.

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