Answers: "My Doctor Says I'm Not Sick Enough for Treatment"
Last updated: July 2023
With today's treatments, hepatitis C can be cured in as little as 8 to 12 weeks. But without treatment, long-term liver damage and health problems can occur. While we hope your doctor will recommend treatment, some community members have been told that they are "not sick enough for treatment." To better assist our community members in getting the treatment they need and deserve, we asked our HepatitisC.net advocates, "What advice would you give someone who says 'My doctor says I’m not sick enough for treatment.'?" Here is what they shared:
Are you interested in starting hep C treatment?
"I would ask your doctor in detail about your liver condition and why they feel you do not need treatment at this time. If the reason is due to insurance denial, ask about applying for a different hep C treatment that is more cost-effective. You have the right to a second opinion also. You need a doctor and healthcare team who will fight for you and your treatment. Early treatment is the best way to avoid liver damage. Keep striving for treatment so that you can get cured."
"That's BS. I was not symptomatic when I got treated, and it was the perfect timing to get treated before you experience extensive damage to the liver. The treatments rid the body of the virus and when caught in time offer a fully healthy life. If left undetected or untreated, the risk of damage remains. I was told to wait because when I was treated, the existing treatments had horrible side effects and were not very reliable in eradicating the illness; I waited until the antivirals were available, and then my doctor recommended the treatment, despite my not being in the chronic phase."
"As regulations and health practices differ from country to country, I would suggest checking what your local state or provincial legislation says about hepatitis C testing and treatment. A response in the moment that I would choose would be, "Would you refuse a patient chemotherapy because their cancer wasn’t 'bad enough?'" Or, "Would you refuse a patient insulin because their diabetes was manageable at that time?" No. Hepatitis C is no different."
"If your doctor says that you’re not sick enough for Hepatitis C treatment, it may be time to look for another healthcare provider. By keeping copies of my lab results and other tests, I was able to understand my health story. I did not want any more damage done to my liver, so I got a second opinion. Like me, you may take your files to a different doctor or clinic."
"This is where you as a patient need to stand up and take a stand. You need to be vocal in stating that hepatitis C causes liver damage. The key is to catch it early and treat it before more damage is done and then other health issues arise. Let the doctor know you are serious about curing this and would appreciate his/her help in getting this done."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out a second opinion when it comes to your health, particularly when you aren’t feeling comfortable with the perspective or plan of action that your current doctor is offering. With hepatitis C, it’s important to get yourself connected with a hepatologist, a liver specialist – and it’s even better if it is one who is part of a clinic whose focus is on treating hepatitis C."
From Canadian Pharmacist
"It’s quite disheartening that comments like this still prevail – just like insurance, eligibility for treatment really depends on where you live. Earlier treatment is heavily encouraged in most states and countries because it is now recognized that treating earlier is more cost-effective for the healthcare system in the long run. If someone is still receiving comments like this in this day and age, I recommend seeking a second opinion from a gastroenterologist or other treating clinician when possible. It is important to note that earlier diagnosis and treatment is the current goal – delaying treatment, unless you are pregnant, is out of the ordinary."
"I would have a discussion with my doctor about the reasons you would like to treat. No one wants to wait until they are quite ill to start treatment. Even people with early-stage hepatitis C may feel ill with fatigue, lack of stamina, and other side effects of having the virus. If the doctor still will not allow you to treat, I would get a second opinion. No one should be denied treatment."