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Treatment of Hepatitis C

The goals of HCV treatment are to remove the virus from the blood and reduce the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer that can result from long-term HCV infection.

Many patients with hepatitis C benefit from treatment with medications. The most common medications are a combination of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin, an antiviral medication. Most patients receive weekly injections of pegylated interferon alfa. Ribavirin is a capsule taken twice daily. Ribavirin can cause birth defects. Women should avoid getting pregnant during, and for 6 months after treatment. Treatment is given for 24 – 48 weeks. Telaprevir and boceprevir are newer drugs which may be used for patients with genotype 1.

These medications have a number of side effects, and patients must be watched closely.

Patients who develop cirrhosis or liver cancer may be candidates for a liver transplant.

People with hepatitis C should also:

  • Be careful not to take vitamins, nutritional supplements, or new over-the-counter medications without first discussing it with their health care provider.
  • Avoid any substances that are toxic to the liver, including alcohol. Even moderate amounts of alcohol speed up the progression of hepatitis C, and alcohol reduces the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
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