7. Hepatitis C treatment is advancing rapidly. For years, interferon injections and ribavirin pills were only 40 to 50 percent effective at controlling hepatitis C. Worse, the therapy came with serious side effects: depression, suicide risk, extreme fatigue, and flu-like symptoms, Dr. Hanouneh explains. But now, drugs approved in late 2014 cure hepatitis C for 90 percent or more patients, and they are already replacing drugs approved just a few years earlier, Graham says. But the new drugs cost more than $94,000 for a 12-week supply, and right now, some insurers will not pay for hepatitis C therapy unless patients have significant liver damage, says Hanouneh.
Drug treatment options for the most common hepatitis C viral strain in the United States, genotype 1, include:
- Harvoni: a combination of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and ledipasvir. Most people take one pill daily for 8 to 12 weeks, says Graham.
- Viekira Pak: ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir co-formulated into two pills taken once a day, plus a dasabuvir pill twice a day, for 12 to 24 weeks. “Around 85 percent of people in the U.S. will also need ribavirin, which can cause anemia, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping,” Graham says.
- Olysio (simeprevir): a protease inhibitor taken in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin for 12 weeks. The peginterferon/ribavirin therapy continues for 12 to 36 weeks after patients stop taking Olysio.