Hepatitis C affects about 4 million Americans, most of them with the difficult to treat HCV-1, a mutated form of the virus that is resistant to the traditional Hepatitis C therapy of ribaviron and interferon.
Last spring, the first in new Hep C treatments were approved, Direct Acting Antivirals.
Taken alongside traditional treatment they have a much higher success rate, even in patients who failed to be cured by their first rounds of treatment.
Unfortunately, new problems are emerging. It was warned when the antivirals came onto the market that not using them properly could result in antiviral resistance similar to antibiotic resistance (meaning an even more mutated and hard to treat Hep C similar to bacterial superbugs). And now there are warnings to doctors about watching patients for “pill fatigue”.
“Pill fatigue” occurs when patients have long treatment schedules, as is the case with Hep C, and a hard to follow drug regimine, the case with the new pills, as well as discouraging side-effects, is also the case.
(Side-effects include low white blood cell count, depression, thyroid problems, fatigue, anemia and irritability).
It’s imporatant that health care practitioners watch for and address side-effects, and are knowledgeable about the drug regimine and risks associated with patients not following it. Helping patients set alarms and refilling prescriptions early also helps to ensure the regime is followed.
It’s important we take a lesson from the history of antibiotics and build a support system for Hep C patients that helps them use Hepatitis C medication as efficiently as possible.
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