Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver and liver damage. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as of June 1, 2018, approximately 3.5 million people in the United States have chronic HCV.
How do you contract Hepatitis C?
People contract hepatitis C through contact with blood or fluids that contain HCV.
What is the difference between acute Hepatitis C and chronic Hepatitis C?
Acute Hepatitis C – For those with acute hepatitis C, the body has contracted the virus, but their immune system was able to successfully fight the infection, clearing the HCV from the body within 6 months. There is no liver damage.
Chronic Hepatitis C – If the patient’s immune system is not able to fight the HCV within 6 months, the liver becomes more and more inflamed and scarred. Unfortunately, this means the patient will develop cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years. For some it may take longer.
Is there a cure for Hepatitis C?
While there is no vaccination available for hepatitis C, it can be treated with antiviral medications. Most people with HCV, however, can be cured with medications, such as sofosbuvir.
Facts about hepatitis C from the World Health Organization:
- Many people are unaware they have been infected with HCV.
- Between 15-45% of those infected with HCV will get better within 6 months without treatment.
- 55-85% of those infected with HCV will develop chronic HCV, which leads to a 15-30% chance of developing cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years.
- Antiviral treatment works for over 95% of people who are treated, and may reduce the risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
What medications are available to treat Hepatitis C?
Prescription Generic Sofosbuvir
Sofosbuvir is the generic name for brand-name Sovaldi®.
Sofosbuvir is a new direct-acting antiviral medication. As a nucleotide analogue HCV polymerase inhibitor, it works on blocking the polymerase enzymes needed by the hepatitis C virus to grow and reproduce. Solvadi is used in combination with ribavirin (brand name Copegus® and Rebetol®), and with or without peginterferon alfa (brand name Pegasys®, PEG-Intron®.
Sofosbuvir must be used in combination with other medications in order to work effectively to treat hepatitis C.
How is Sofosbuvir prescribed?
Your doctor will monitor your health before and during the time you take this medication. It is prescribed according to your particular medical needs and how you respond to the treatment regime.
Even if you feel better quickly, it is important to continue to take your prescription sofosbuvir for the entire length of time it is prescribed, and to take it consistently.
Sofosbuvir and Sovaldi are available as tablets. The main active ingredient in Sovaldi is sofosbuvir.
What are the side effects Sofosbuvir?
Many people who take prescription sofosbuvir have little to no serious effects. Common side effects may include nausea, fatigue, itchy skin, diarrhea, trouble sleeping, and headache.
Serious side effects to be concerned about may include rapid heartbeat, pale skin, or rapid breathing. If you experience any of these serious side effects or any sign of allergic reaction, seek medical help immediately.
What other medications treat Hepatitis C?
Other medications that are used to treat hepatitis C include brand name Harvoni®
The active ingredients in Harvoni® are ledipasvir and sofosbuvir. It is available in tablet form.
Approved by the FDA in 2014, this pill is usually taken once a day for a 12 week period. For some it may only need to be taken for 8 weeks, and for those with cirrhosis of the liver it may be prescribed for 24 weeks. During treatment your doctor will monitor your progress with frequent blood tests.
How can I reduce my risk of contracting Hepatitis C?
- Healthcare workers should follow all universal blood/body fluid precautions.
- Avoid sharing personal items with blood on them such as razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers.
- Beware of unhygienic body piercing, tattooing and acupuncture practitioners and ensure all instruments are sterilized and/or new.
- Avoid injecting drugs and/or avoid reusing or sharing needles.
- Use latex condoms if you are having sex with more than one partner.
If you have questions about your prescription medications or any other medication, please contact our team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784). One of our patient representatives will be happy to assist you or transfer you to a licensed Canadian pharmacist for a free consultation.
This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).