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The 9 Truths About Hepatitis C Treatment Success

February 1, 2017

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Does Hepatitis C go into remission? Is Hepatitis C curable? Can Hepatitis C reemerge? Let’s delve into these questions!
The 9 Truths About Hepatitis C Treatment Success

As the medications for Hepatitis C continue to improve, greater numbers of people are relishing in their successful treatment outcomes. Despite finally being free of the Hepatitis C virus, most physicians refrain from telling their patients they are cured. The reason for avoiding this terminology is uncertainty regarding the implications of successful Hepatitis C treatment.

Many Hepatitis C drug regimens now boast a 95 percent or higher success rate. Successful treatment is defined as achieving a sustained viral response (SVR). SVR is considered attained when Hepatitis C is not detectable in the blood for at least six months after the last treatment dose. The hesitancy about SVR being the same as a cure has to do with whether or not it is permanent. Some healthcare practitioners will use the word “cure” because SVR is as close as we can get to curing Hepatitis C. Meanwhile, others will use the word “remission” because of doubts as to the permanence of SVR. Neither is entirely accurate.

In an effort to clarify Hepatitis C treatment success facts and Hepatitis C treatment success unknowns, below is a list of what we know to be true:

  1. Studies report that once patients have achieved SVR, they have a 99.2 to 100 percent chance of remaining free of Hepatitis C. In other words, less than 1 percent of people who achieve SVR experience a return of Hepatitis C infection.
  2. If Hepatitis C does return after achieving SVR, there is a good chance it is due to re-exposure, and being infected again with the virus.
  3. Some studies suggest that there are two groups at higher risk of Hepatitis C returning after SVR: injection drug users or prisoners, and those co-infected with HIV.
  4. Different from several other diseases, having Hepatitis C once does not provide immunity from getting it again.
  5. Even with SVR, there will still be Hepatitis C antibodies. This does not mean you are still infected. If there is no detectable Hepatitis C virus in the blood, there is nothing to transmit to others. Antibodies are your immune system’s response to a pathogen and are not infectious.
  6. After achieving SVR, routine Hepatitis C screening is typically advised to make sure you remain free of the virus and to catch any reemergence right away should it occur. A quantitative Hepatitis C RNA test that detects viral load is appropriate, not a Hepatitis C antibody test.
  7. After achieving SVR, doctors are hesitant to give patients permission to drink alcohol. This is due to many complicating factors. For example, drinking alcohol is extremely dangerous for those with liver cirrhosis – even if Hepatitis C has been eradicated.
  8. After achieving SVR, liver health almost always improves. This includes improved liver histology, reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, and improved overall survival.
  9. With adherence to lifestyle choices that promote liver health, both cirrhosis and fibrosis have shown the capability of reversing after achieving SVR.

Compared to most other infectious diseases, the treatment and eradication of Hepatitis C is still in its relative infancy. The medical community is continuously learning and evolving, working hard to eliminate this viral infection of the liver.

The nine truths listed above are based on what we know to be true. There are still several unknowns, and until those unknowns are clarified, most physicians abstain from calling SVR a cure.

There is one thing for certain, achieving SVR is the closest we have to Hepatitis C eradication – and the likelihood of SVR being permanent is very, very high.

http://hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/HCV_Neg.pdf, HCV Negative: A Guide for Healthy Living with out Hepatitis C, Lucinda K. Porter, RN, Retrieved January 15, 2017, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2017.

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/if-im-cured-of-hepatitis-c-when-is-it-safe-to-drink-again-051415#4, If I'm Cured of Hepatitis C, When Is It Safe to Drink Again?, David Heitz, Retrieved January 15, 2017, Healthline Media, 2017.

http://www.lifebeyondhepatitisc.com/2016/07/3-common-questions-about-hep-c-recurrence-and-steps-to-avoid-hep-c-reinfection/, 3 Common Questions about Hep C Recurrence and Steps to Avoid Hep C Reinfection, Retrieved January 15, 2017, Connie M. Welch LLC, 2017.

http://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/recurrence-of-hepatitis-c-after-treatment-studied, Recurrence of Hepatitis C After Treatment Studied, Katheraine Kolonko, Retrieved January 15, 2017, MD Magazine, 2017.

http://www.thebody.com/content/78157/after-the-hepatitis-c-cure-post-treatment-care.html, After the Hepatitis C Cure: Post-Treatment Care, Retrieved January 15, 2017, TheBody.com, 2017.

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HepatitisCentral.com provides information regarding hepatitis and liver disease. Comments are available to the community in order to discuss these topics and obtain answers to questions through community members. The Editors at HepatitisCentral.com will not be responding to questions or comments posed in article comments.

  • Steve Ellis

    Epclusa and RIBA. I was very close to Cirrotic……F4. After 5 weeks, I am “Undetectable.”, Albumin if headed back up, and Platelets are in Normal Range.

  • Doddy Suhono

    I got Hep C in early 2013, treated with Interferon + Ribavirin for 24 weeks and got undetected result, until mid of 2016, when it relapsed, then I took Sovosbuvir + Daklata

    • Teri Gottlieb

      After 3 years that’s not a relapse, its a new infection.

      • Bama Dan

        Sweetie you are so misinformed for saying that! I do wish those who chose to give medical advice have at least a little info about what they are talking about. With that being said i went thru a year of Interferon and also 6 months of Pegasyst and now and still SVR. You can have hep. c return at any time.I know i was a bit harsh but i do get tired of people making statements that are 100% untrue…

        • Teri Gottlieb

          That information came from multiple doctors and scientists who have developed HCV drugs. After 2 years, it’s no longer a relapse. It’s a new infection.

        • David Pieper

          Mate, you are the one who is misinformed and unnecessarily condescending and, it seems, confused. If you have SVR, you are cured. If the treatment doesn’t work, you still have HCV. Pegasys IS interferon. Relapse, if it occurs, is within 6 months, usually much less. And BTW I don’t work for “Big Pharma” and you are not the only one who has been through hell on interferon.

  • Doddy Suhono

    The I took Sovosbuvir + daklatasvir for 24 weeks, now am checking if am in SVR position, question : can it be relapsed again after sovos + dakla for 24 weeks ?

    • Teri Gottlieb

      Unfortunately, yes.

  • Jim

    After contracting Hepatitis C at age 14 from a blood transfusion (1962) and being diagnosed with non-A/B hepatitis 15 years later, and, finally, hepatitis C years after that, I suffered many side effects of the disease throughout the years (memory impairment, auto-immune disease symptoms, arthritis, chronic fatigue and, ultimately, liver cirrhosis). Finally at age 68 I became SVR as a result of the latest wonder drugs. Although the financial cost was staggering, to be viral free and, maybe “cured”, my only regret is that more couldn’t have been done for me at an earlier age. I may, or may not still get liver cancer and may, or may not, need a liver transplant. EVERYONE should be tested for this silent disease regularly throughout their lives, starting with the teen years.

  • Patricia M Burckhardt

    You are right Jim about the drugs, I’m one of the fortunate ones with Hep C that finally got the “latest wonder drugs” and was “cured” after a liver transplant. My story is similar to yours, blood transfusion, disease, symptoms of arthritis, fatigue, and end stage liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and transplant at age 69, finally free of Hep C but still afraid of any other problems down the road. However at my age, my road is not that long anymore. I went through 2 treatments for the Hep C before the transplant and boy these new drugs and I’m here to tell you you are lucky you had these new drugs. Between interferon and ribavirin, they try to kill you and these new drugs are very expensive but much easier on your system than those previously used. Even chemo was easier that those drugs. Just be thankful you’re free of those symptoms and go on with the life you have right now, no point in regretting what might have been. And yes, everyone should be tested, especially baby boomers.

    • priscilla j. hagopian

      My husband took Harvoni and it worked! The first appt. showed no traces left of the virus. That was 6 wks after finishing the pills. Now, he goes back in feb. to have it checked again, so we’ll see.

      • Mukul Patel

        Good Luck. I am sure he will virus free.

  • David

    Pharmaceutical companies based their 95% success rate on achieving SVR at 12 weeks post treatment, which really counts for nothing!! To claim 95% success would be if people were SVR negative 3 to 5 years post treatment, then we could call it a cure! Another thing to consider is the fact that most people treated with those new wonder drugs are still suffering side affects 2 and 3 years post treatment, and in some cases it actually accelerated the development of liver cancer due to the use of those “wonder” drugs, so think twice before you allow a doctor to turn you into a guinea pig. Ask questions like, 1, would the chronic fatigue will go away? 2, will the insomnia go away? 3, will the foggy brain go away? 3,will the never stopping Tinnitus go away? 4,will the depression stop? 5, will the joint pains and arthritis will go away? and so on. So, when you first find a pharmaceutical company that can guaranty that, and a specialist doctor who will confirm that, only then consider using those “wonder” drugs. don’t ever forget that people were treated with Interferon for years… Interferon is a poison!! I wouldn’t let my dog use it let alone a human being!! At the moment doctors just don’t know what works, what will cure you, so they say try this and lets see what happens, lets see how that works, which translates to turning human beings into guinea pigs!! Do you want to become a guinea pig?…it’s up to you. And one last but most important thing, pharmaceutical companies never released any “percentage rates” of how many people died or committed suicide during treatment… I wonder why?…and so should you!!

    • Nici Roush

      I had the European genotype. I was one of the fortunate ones. Six months of Peg-Intron (Pegasys/Interferon) and Doctor wrote “A true cure” across my papers! Many wanted to argue that point. But 14 years later I am still SVR.
      I prepared for the worst. I actually had Hepatic Encephalopathy and was very ill, alone with a six year old! I had no hair loss, no nausea, nothing but extreme fatigue which I was used to. After three months the virus was undetectable!
      I realize I’m one of the lucky ones.

      • Mukul Patel

        Glad to learn you are cured.

  • Soh Sunny

    Direct Acting Antivirals under brand names of Harvoni, Sovaldi, Epclusa, and Dalkinza have been very efficient for the treatment of Hep C. In fact the Indian generic market has helped over 12 million people of over 120 low and middle income countries to fight this disease. Countries of South Asia are hoping to be Hep C free by the year 2020.

    • Mir Ahmed Ali

      Hope is there GOD Bless you

  • zenseekercu

    “With adherence to lifestyle choices that promote liver health, both cirrhosis and fibrosis have shown the capability of reversing after achieving SVR.”

    My doctor told me that there is no reversing cirrhosis. I am in SVR after treatment with Olysia and Sovosbuvir in early 2014. I was told I have a very mild cirrhosis (14.3 on Fibroscan); my doctor said I will show improvement, but he said once you have cirrhosis, you just have it. He compared it to a scar on your skin; once it’s there, it may fade a bit, but you will always have it. I was also told I could have an “occasional” beer if I wished, but I choose not to do so. I went through 12 years of hell with the Interferon/Rivavirin treatments (4 attempts), and choose to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I don’t ever want to have to go through anything like that again.

    As far as the “wonder” drugs, it’s up to you as to whether you choose to use them or not. I was very pleased with my drug combo. I only had a mild headache, on occasion, and I actually started feeling BETTER towards the end of the drug therapy, as it killed off the virus.