About Hepatitis C Virus
||Hepatitis C (HCV) is a blood-borne viral infection which can, over decades, lead to liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, and in some patients liver cancer and death. It is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, and in rare cases, sexual transmission. Approximately 4 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C; however, only 25 to 30% have been diagnosed. The diagnosis is made by specific laboratory (blood) testing. Liver biopsy may be recommended to assess the degree of fibrosis and need for treatment.
HCV disporportionately affects prisoners. According to the CDC, as many as 36% of US prisoners have chronic HCV in comparison to only 2-3% of the general US population. Risk factors for hepatitis C include a history of injection drug use, unsafe tattoos or piercings, intranasal drug use, and other blood-to-blood contact.
Current treatment for hepatitis C lasts 24-48 weeks and results in a cure for about 70-75% of patients. Previously, treatment consisted of pegylated interferon and ribavirin
, which resulted in viral clearance in approximately 50% of those patients treated. In 2011 two new medications were added to standard hepatitis C treatment; both drugs are protease inhibitors and they are manufactured by different companies. One is called Victrelis (boceprevir)
and the other is called Incivek (telaprevir)
. Patients who are treated with one of these two new drugs will continue to take interferon and ribavirin; this triple combination therapy
is the current standard of care and produces cure rates of 70-75%.
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