HCV Treatment and Side Effects

HCV Treatment and Side Effects

I am often asked about the side effects of treatment drugs.

It is different today than it was just a very short time ago as many are aware, whether you are new to treatment or an old warrior in the battle to be free of HCV.

I know many people who treated multiple times over a period of years with drugs that were akin to chemotherapy. Unfortunately, for some it was never effective in eradicating the virus despite the difficult side effects, and now they are looking at treating with or have already treated with new direct acting antivirals. As we are aware, these new therapies are proving to be highly curative, with fewer side effects, and we are seeing more people reach SVR than ever before with rates north of 90% for the most common genotype 1a, with the promise of equally effective pan-genotypic treatments on the horizon.

Getting back to side effects, as I mentioned, people are curious about what they can expect in treating. There have been well-published accounts based on the clinical trials and some may have spoken to people who have treated, or read about the experience of others in online or face-to-face peer support groups.

I am reluctant to share in my own experience because my treatment was years ago with interferon and ribavirin, with 12 weeks of DAA’s like the new therapies.

Interferon and ribavirin is not used so much now, although ribavirin is still used in combination with new therapies in some regimens.

I am not about to start listing potential side effects, and if you want to read about them as indicated by the drug companies please refer to the monographs that come with the drugs or take a look online where they are available.

My approach is to address the side effects in a way that speaks to real-world accounts that are sometimes called anecdotal. In other words I am not approaching the subject from a purely scientific way. I base my own comments on what people tell me, as much or more as what I read.

For example when someone asks what to expect I usually say they should not look for side effects, or expect them to be bad necessarily. At the extremes I hear from some people who say they haven’t felt so good in a long time-in treatment, while others report quite the opposite. This indicates to me that most people are part of the largest group who may experience some difficulties but generally they are well tolerated. This is a huge shift from the old therapy, which was quite difficult for most people and in some cases intolerable while the SVR rates were in the 40% range compared to the 90% plus we now see.

Some of us will need heightened monitoring while others will need less, and that depends on many factors, which should be established in the evaluation process before starting treatment.

To close I want to reiterate my own answer when asked about side effects; don’t go looking for them. They may appear and they may not be significant at all. I am not suggesting anyone ignore side effects and not report them to their treating physician or their staff, because there may be something that needs closer attention.

There is no absolute way to predict how any individual will respond to treatment drugs because we are all different in ways that simply are not always evident.

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