Study finds few with hepatitis C start or stick with treatment - 8 News NOW

Study finds too few with hepatitis C start or stick with treatment

Updated: Nov 6, 2013 09:51 AM
© iStockphoto.com / Khuong Hoang © iStockphoto.com / Khuong Hoang

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that only a quarter of people with hepatitis C are willing to start the standard treatment for the serious viral infection.

When interferon injections -- the current standard treatment -- work, which only happens about 16 percent of the time, the risk of dying drops by 45 percent, the University of Southern California researchers said. Unfortunately, the drug doesn't always manage to suppress the virus completely and many people can't tolerate its side effects, which include gastrointestinal problems and anemia.

"This study points out the inadequacies of old therapies for hepatitis C," said Dr. Douglas Dieterich, a professor of medicine and liver diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It's transmitted from person to person via blood.

Liver specialists said that although this study may be reflective of what's currently going on in hepatitis C treatment, soon there will be a huge shift in the way the disease is treated.

"There's a revolution afoot in the treatment of hepatitis C," Dieterich said. He said new treatments that are taken in pill form should be approved in the coming months, and the newer medications will be far more effective at treating hepatitis C than interferon. He added that the treatment times also will be shorter.

"By the fourth quarter of next year, we'll have at least two new drug cocktails, curing upwards of 90 percent of patients -- even those with cirrhosis," he said.

Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said the new treatment options are "exciting, but we need to remain somewhat skeptical because many of the studies were done on small groups."

Most people who have hepatitis C don't have any symptoms, and can go years without knowing they have the virus.

"The bulk of people with hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965, and more than three-quarters of those infected don't know they have it," said Dr. Paul Gaglio, medical director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Transplantation, in New York City.

The current study included more than 360,000 U.S. military veterans who'd been diagnosed with hepatitis C. Ninety-seven percent were male, and their average age was 52. More than half were white and almost one-third were black.

Only 24 percent of the veterans chose to receive treatment for their hepatitis C. Of those who received treatment, just 16.4 percent achieved undetectable levels of the virus in their blood. That likely means that many of the study volunteers may have stopped taking the medication before the recommended 48 weeks of treatment was finished, Bernstein said.

The good news was that when the treatment did work, the risk of dying from any cause dropped by 45 percent.

"This study is indicative of standard practice now," Gaglio said. "Patients don't want to take the treatment because there are lots of side effects. But big changes are coming."

Bernstein said three new treatment regimens likely will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December, and another round of approvals likely will occur in late 2014 or early 2015.

All three experts said the message for people with hepatitis C is to go back to their doctor and get re-evaluated. New treatment options will soon be available, and they'll be available for folks with kidney disease and cirrhosis of the liver.

"The treatment world is really changing," Bernstein said.

Gaglio added that if you were born between 1945 and 1965 and you haven't been tested for hepatitis C, it's important to get tested to ensure that you aren't infected with the virus.

The study was published online Nov. 5 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

More information

Learn more about hepatitis C from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Paula's Health NotesLas Vegas Health NewsMore>>

  • Prostate frozen lumpectomy offers patients an alternative

    Prostate frozen lumpectomy offers patients an alternative

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 3:39 PM EDT2014-07-29 19:39:02 GMT
    More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year according to the American cancer society. In most cases, surgical removal of the gland is considered the gold standard of treatment, but results of a new study suggest a new treatment might benefit some patients.More>>
    More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year according to the American cancer society. In most cases, surgical removal of the gland is considered the gold standard of treatment, but results of a new study suggest a new treatment might benefit some patients.More>>
  • New therapies for epilepsy

    New therapies for epilepsy

    Friday, July 25 2014 3:00 PM EDT2014-07-25 19:00:14 GMT
    pilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that affects more than 2.5 million Americans. Uncontrollable seizures plague these patients’ lives. Until now, the only treatments were drugs and major surgery, but new therapies are on the horizon.More>>
    pilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that affects more than 2.5 million Americans. Uncontrollable seizures plague these patients’ lives. Until now, the only treatments were drugs and major surgery, but new therapies are on the horizon.More>>
  • Study touts health care workers with less than bachelor's degree

    Study touts health care workers with less than bachelor's degree

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:08 AM EDT2014-07-24 04:08:05 GMT
    Among Las Vegas workers with less than a bachelor’s degree only 3.5 percent hold jobs in the most common health care occupations, the lowest percentage among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday night.More>>
    Among Las Vegas workers with less than a bachelor’s degree only 3.5 percent hold jobs in the most common health care occupations, the lowest percentage among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday night.More>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.