What is HCV?
What is HCV? I’ll give you a hint, you probably already know, though you may not have heard of it by this particular name.
HCV is an acronym for the Hepatitis C virus. To put it another way, HCV is the virus that causes Hep C. In turn, Hep C is a liver disease that leads cirrhosis, or a hardening, of the liver.
There are seven different types of HCV. These are labeled genotypes 1 to 7. Genotype 1 is the most common form of Hep C, accounting for approximately 70% of all infections. Genotype 2 accounts for around 20%, with the remaining genotypes accounting for around 1% each.
How is HCV Spread?
HCV is spread through blood-to-blood contact. This frequently occurs from unsafe IV drug use. Think things like sharing needles, not properly disposing of used syringes, or unsafe syringe sterilization.
HCV can also be spread through blood transfusions, sex, unsterile tattooing, and anything which requires blood to blood contact.
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What is HCV? A Nightmare
HCV affects approximately 150 million people worldwide. Of those millions, HCV related liver disease kills between 350,000 and 500,000 people each year.
So, what is HCV? It’s a nightmare for addicts and their loved ones. In years past, there have been various HCV treatments of moderate success. However, as science progresses, HCV treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Now that we’ve thoroughly answered the question “what is HCV?”, let’s examine some common HCV symptoms.
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Hepatitis C is an unusual disease in that it doesn’t immediately present symptoms. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 80% of those infected with HCV are asymptomatic or don’t exhibit symptoms.
HCV has a six-month incubation period. Following this period, symptoms can include:
- Fever like Symptoms
- Joint Pain
Now that we’ve looked at various HCV symptoms, let’s turn our attention to different treatment options.
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This is where things can get a bit confusing. There are a ton of HCV treatment options available. These range from homeopathic remedies to cutting edge medical care.
The goal of HCV treatments is to produce a Sustained Virologic Response or SVR. This is when the Hepatitis C virus isn’t present in blood six months after completing a course of treatment.
Harvoni: New Hope for HCV Treatment
Harvoni is a once daily pill that was approved for treating HCV genotype 1 in late 2014. It’s a combination of the drugs ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (which we’ll touch on below).
Harvoni works by attacking the Hep C virus itself, rather than boosting your immune system’s ability to fight off infection (how Interferon and Ribavirin works).
Harvoni treatment is usually a twelve-week course of therapy. During this time, patients take the pill once a day. Its side effects are said to be mild and consist of headache and nausea.
Clinical trials have shown Harvoni to be upwards of 95% effective in eliciting a SVR.
The only drawback to using Harvoni as a HCV treatment is its cost. A twelve-week course of therapy is approximately $95,000. For this reason, insurance companies are often wary of approving patients.
Sofosbuvir: Polymerase Inhibitors as HCV Treatment
In late 2013, sofosbuvir was approved to treat HCV genotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4. It’s a polymerase inhibitor, which means it belongs to a family of drugs that actively block HCV proteins from replicating.
Sofosbuvir can be used with and without Interferon and Ribavirin. The specific combination depends on which HCV genotype a patient has.
For example, those suffering from genotypes 1 and 4 must take sofosbuvir, Interferon, and Ribavirin. However, those with HCV genotypes 2 and 3 can take only sofosbuvir and Ribavirin.
The latter combination cuts down on many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with HCV treatment.
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Simeprevir: Protease Inhibitors as HCV Treatment
Also in late 2013, simeprevir was approved for treating HCV genotype 1. Since its introduction to the pharmaceutical market, it’s been used as an off-label treatment for HCV genotype 4.
Simeprevir belongs to a family of drugs known as protease inhibitors. These are similar to polymerase inhibitors and block proteins in HCV from replicating. This means that the Hep C virus can’t create new versions of itself.
Simeprevir, unlike Harvoni and sofosbuvir, must be used in combination with Interferon treatment. It’s used as a sort of boost for Interferon, shortening the duration of treatment and increasing SVR rates.
This is accomplished through keeping the virus from replicating, while Interferon and Ribavirin “beat it up.” Think of one person attempting to fight three. That’s what happens to HCV while taking simeprevir, Interferon, and Ribavirin.
Interferon & Ribavirin: The Old HCV Treatment
Interferon and Ribavirin are the most well known forms of HCV treatment. They’ve been around since the 1980’s and are approved to treat all genotypes of Hepatitis C. In fact, until 2011, they were the only medical form of HCV treatment available.
Interferon is a protein that works by increasing the body’s immune system. This better equips the body to fight HCV.
Ribavirin keeps HCV from replicating. This makes Interferon’s job easier, as it doesn’t have new viral bodies to fight. While sofosbuvir and simeprevir block key Hep C proteins from replicating, thus slowing the spread of the virus, it’s not known how Ribavirin keeps Hep C from replicating.
The combination of Interferon and Ribavirin is approximately 50% effective at producing a SVR. The downside to this course of therapy are the side effects. In fact, many patients report the side effects to be worse than HCV itself.
Common Interferon side effects include: headache, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dizziness, fever, chills, muscle aches, and hair loss.
Homeopathic Remedies for HCV
There are many homoeopathic options available for HCV treatment. It’s worth noting that none of the following are shown to produce a SVR. Rather, they help the body naturally fight and cope with Hepatitis C.
- Vitamin D
- Milk Thistle
- Licorice Root
- Thymus Extract
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