Dr. Felix Yang
The cure of chronic hepatitis C has never been easier and more available than it is now. British Columbians now have access to affordable, extremely effective (> 97% cure rates), and very tolerable (interferon free, direct acting antivirals) oral treatments for all patients with chronic hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver. It can be transmitted through drug injection use, blood transfusions particularly those before 1990, sexual intercourse, body piercings or tattoos, sharing razors, toothbrushes, and rarely the virus can be spread from mother to baby upon delivery. Hepatitis C also remains a concern amongst those born from 1945 to 1964, the so called “baby boomers”, as many in this era are unknowingly infected. Thus reflects the importance of hepatitis C screening amongst those at risk. Patients with these risks who have not yet been screened should discuss doing so with their physicians.
Those who have chronic hepatitis C should also discuss with their physicians how they can get treatment of their disease. Over time chronic hepatitis C infection will damage the liver eventually leading to functional decline of the liver called liver cirrhosis. Due to the importance of the liver in many bodily functions, this organ’s functional decline can impact the entire body. To name a few when cirrhosis is present one can have body swelling, bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, and increased risks of liver cancer. As such early treatment of a hepatitis C infected liver is more likely to prevent these complications. Finally early treatment is more widely available to British Columbians as Pharmacare has allowed for funding of treatment for those with early chronic hepatitis C as compared to before when treatment was only approved for those with more advanced disease.
In addition due to the advent of new highly tolerable oral treatments the risks associated with chronic hepatitis C are minimal and compliance is relatively easy requiring one pill per day for about 3 months. There are different types of hepatitis C, fortunately at this time treatments are available for all types of hepatitis C. Depending on the type of hepatitis C, your other medical conditions (i.e. if you have history or risk of HIV, chronic hepatitis B, or chronic kidney disease) or other medications you are taking a particular treatment may be preferable. Please be sure to discuss your medical history and let your physician know all the medications that you are taking. This is an exciting time for patients with chronic hepatitis C and healthcare providers treating this condition.
- If you are at risk for hepatitis C discuss screening with your physician
- If you have hepatitis C discuss with your physician how to proceed
- Treatment is now more affordable than ever
- Treatment is extremely effective
- Treatment is very easy and tolerable
- Prevent disease complications by being treated earlier
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