What Are the Possible Side Effects of Hepatitis C Treatment?

About 71 million people in the world currently live with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).1 Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatments have revolutionized the way HCV is treated. Compared with older HCV drugs and treatment methods, DAAs have been able to cure more people and cause far fewer side effects.1,2

A 2019 study showed that less than 1 percent of people have to discontinue therapy because of treatment side effects. However, even though side effects are rarer with DAA treatment, that does not mean that they do not exist in some people.1,2

In our 2020 Hepatitis C In America Survey, we explored the side effects of HCV as well as HCV treatment. According to the survey, people with HCV – both cured and not cured – experienced symptoms of the disease as well as side effects from treatment.

Symptoms after treatment

It is important to note that the survey asked people about symptoms and treatment side effects ever experienced, not just treatment side effects.

Fatigue and muscle aches are common symptoms

Fatigue – extreme tiredness that does not get better with sleep – and muscle aches were 2 main symptoms reported in the survey.

Among those who have been cured of HCV:

81 percent reported fatigue
62 percent reported muscle aches, including leg cramps

Among those who are not yet cured of HCV:

82 percent reported fatigue
70 percent reported muscle aches, including leg cramps

Depression, anxiety, and insomnia were also reported.

Survey respondents also said they felt depressed and anxious as a result of their HCV and/or from treatment. More specifically:

61 percent of those cured experienced depression, anxiety, and/or mood disorders
68 percent of those not yet cured experienced depression, anxiety, and/or mood disorders

Insomnia, night sweats and trouble sleeping were also listed as side effects for both those who have been cured of HCV (59 percent) and those not yet cured (61 percent).

Possible side effects of DAAs

Chronic HCV can lead to scarring of the liver (liver cirrhosis), liver failure, and/or liver cancer. Without treatment, these complications can be life-threatening.1

DAAs have transformed the way people with HCV are treated, with positive results and fewer side effects than older HCV drugs. These oral tablets are recommended for people with chronic HCV, with a recommended dosage of around 12 to 24 weeks depending on the stage of the disease.1,3-5

Several DAAs are available, including:3-5

Epclusa® (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir) – For adults with chronic HCV, with or without cirrhosis and/or advanced liver failure (when used in combination with a drug called ribavirin)
Commonly reported side effects include headache and fatigue
In people with liver failure who are taking this drug, reported side effects to include fatigue, anemia, nausea, headache, insomnia, and diarrhea.

HarvoniTM (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) – For adults with chronic HCV, with or without cirrhosis
Commonly reported side effects to include fatigue and headache

Mavyret® (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir) – For adults and children ages 3 and above who have chronic HCV, with or without cirrhosis
Commonly reported side effects to include headache and fatigue

Side effect transparency

DAAs are successful in treating HCV and have fewer side effects, but research shows that people are still concerned about them. According to a 2109 study, 37 percent of people with HCV are worried about side effects from DAA treatments.2

While there may be fewer side effects to worry about, it is important to talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of DAA treatments. Your doctor can also help you decide what treatment is right for you.

The 2020 Hepatitis C In America Survey was conducted online from April through August 2020. The survey was completed by 190 people classified as "Cured" (no longer having the infection) and 217 classified as "Not Cured" (still infected).

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

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