Targeted drug therapies for hepatitis C

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What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver caused by the HCV virus. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are over 2.4 million people in the U.S. with the disease.1

Hepatitis C impacts how the liver works, and it spreads when someone with the virus shares their blood with a non-infected person. There are 2 types of hepatitis C—acute (short-term infection lasting less than 6 months) and chronic (infection lasts 6 months or longer).2

Most hepatitis C infections begin as acute and often develop into chronic hepatitis due to a lack of noticeable symptoms in the first few months. Chronic hepatitis C can last for years and can cause liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

How treatment for hepatitis C has changed

In the 1990s and 2000s, hepatitis C was treated with weekly protein-based interferon and peginterferon shots and ribavirin (RBV), an oral antiviral medication. These drugs boosted a person’s immune system to fight off the HCV virus but didn’t treat what made people with hepatitis C sick; thus, cure rates were low and researchers searched for a more effective treatment.3

Then in 2011, researchers developed 2 types of protease inhibitor drugs called Victrelis® and Incivek® that stopped the HCV virus. And when used with peginterferon injections and ribavirin, cure rates increased. However, some patients reported severe side effects like Steven-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and lowered white blood cell counts, so the drugs were discontinued in 2014 and 2015 when new antiviral medications with fewer side effects were available.

How hepatitis C is treated today

Gone are the days of having to get weekly injections to treat hepatitis C. Now, the disease can be treated at home by taking oral antiviral medications for 8-12 weeks.4 Antiviral drugs clear the body of the HCV virus by targeting the specific genotype that causes hepatitis C.

Common antiviral medications for hepatitis C:

  • Harvoni®
  • Sovaldi®
  • Mavyret®
  • Vosevi®
  • Epclusa®
  • Zepatier®

These medications shortened the length of treatment from months to weeks and increased the cure rate of hepatitis C to 95% for most people.5 They also have less side effects than previous treatments for hepatitis C.

Help is here if you need it

If you have hepatitis C, talk to your healthcare provider to see if Humana Specialty Pharmacy® is right for you. They have experienced pharmacists, nurses and technicians who are committed to helping you manage your hepatitis C treatment.

Financial specialists are also available to help you find and apply for patient assistance programs to lower your hepatitis C treatment cost. To learn more about how the Humana Specialty Pharmacy team can help you cure your hepatitis C, watch this short video to hear from customers about how they care for people like you.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you

Sources:

1. “Hepatitis C Prevalence Estimates 2013-2016,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed May 3, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2018/hepatitis-c-prevalence-estimates.html.

2. “Hepatitis C,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed May 3, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm.

3. “Then and Now: The Evolution of Treatments for Hepatitis C,” Healthline, last accessed May 3, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/evolution-of-treatments.

4. “FDA-Approved Hepatitis C Drugs,” VeryWell Health, last accessed May 3, 2021, https://www.verywellhealth.com/list-of-approved-hepatitis-c-drugs-3576465.

5. “Hepatitis C,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed May 3, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354284.