Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes it.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Many people who are infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. If the infection has been present for many years, the liver may be permanently scarred, a condition called cirrhosis. In many cases, there may be no symptoms of the disease until cirrhosis has developed. The following symptoms could occur with hepatitis C infection:
- Pain the right upper abdomen
- Ascites or fluid in the abdomen
- Bleeding veins in the esophagus
- Dark urine
- Generalized itching
- Jaundice or yellowed skin
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Pale or clay-colored stools
Causes of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). People who may be at risk for hepatitis C are those who:
- Have been on long-term kidney dialysis
- Have regular contact with blood at work (for instance, as a health care worker)
- Have unprotected sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis C (this is less common, but the risk increases for those who have multiple sex partners, already have a sexually transmitted disease, or are infected with HIV)
- Inject street drugs or share a needle with someone who has hepatitis C
- Received a blood transfusion before July 1992
- Received a tattoo or acupuncture with contaminated instruments (the risk is very low with licensed, commercial tattoo facilities)
- Received blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor who has hepatitis C
- Share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors with someone who has hepatitis C (less common)
- Were born to a hepatitis C-infected mother (this is less common than with hepatitis B)
Hepatitis C has an acute and chronic form. Most people who are infected with the virus develop chronic hepatitis C. Other hepatitis virus infections include hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Each viral hepatitis infection is caused by a different virus
New Treatment Options
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved new medications to treat Hepatitis C in certain patients. These medications decrease the treatment time and side effects and increase the cure rate. The new medications include:
Simeprevir – A protease inhibitor that blocks a specific protein needed by the hepatitis C virus to reproduce in the human body. Simeprevir is used in combination with current hepatitis C medications peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin. When all three drugs were used together for treatment, 80% of patients in clinical trials no longer had the hepatitis C virus in their blood stream 12 weeks after treatment was complete. This treatment is also approved for patients who have relapsed or had partial response to previous treatment. Treatment time is patient specific. More information on simeprevir is available at www.OLYSIO.com or 1-855-565-9746.
Sofosbuvir – A once-daily oral tablet used in combination with current hepatitis C medications that decreases the length of treatment time and side effects and increases the cure rate. The type of hepatitis a patient has determines the length and combination of medications used during treatment with sofosbuvir. More information on sofosbuvir can be found at sovaldi.com
- Genotype 1 or 4 treated with sofosbuvir + peginterferon-alfa + ribavirin ndash; duration 12 Weeks
- Genotype 2 treated with sofosbuvir + ribavirin – duration 12 Weeks
- Genotype 3 treated with sofosbuvir + ribavirin – duration 12 Weeks
Treatment Option FAQs
How do I get a prescription for one of these new hepatitis C medications?
You need to make an appointment to see your liver specialist doctor. Your doctor will evaluate your individual needs and help find the best treatment option for you. If you’d like an appointment with one a $host_variable.facilityName hepatitis C specialist, you can call (504) 988-5344 and choose Option 5 for self-referral or ask your current doctor for a referral.
Will my insurance cover the cost of these new medications?
These medications are brand new and will most likely require a pre-authorization from your insurance company. Your medical team can submit the pre-authorization request to your insurance company after your clinic visit. If for some reason your insurance does not cover the full cost of the medicine, there are patient assistance programs available for these medications. Your medical team can help you find assistance programs to see if you qualify.