Treatment of hepatitis C has made great advances
from the early days. Back when interferon was first approved, the
cure rates were about 10%. The list of just the most common side
effects could take up an entire page. Now, we have medications that
can cure 90 to 100% of patients who undergo therapy. Even better, the
side effects of the newer treatments are much easier to tolerate.
This article will discuss what it takes to prepare for treatment.
Support and Resources
Start by gathering resources. Trusted resources
such as your medical provider, a support group, and a reliable internet
site are safe places to start. An important issue for people
thinking about treatment is to learn as much as possible about
treatment. Talk to others who have been on treatment—they are some of
the best experts. Facebook is another resource where you can learn
about treatment and receive support. There are various Facebook
accounts for the brand name drugs—HARVONI and VIEKIRA PAK—that provide a
wealth of information about what people are experiencing while on
treatment. A caveat: Sometimes the sickest patients may use these
sites more than those who feel well, and may have more side effects and
The pharmaceutical companies
also have many resources that can be useful for investigating treatment
issues and receiving support.
Whether you are dealing with your pharmacy,
insurance company, medical provider or a patient assistance program—be
prepared to provide the following information:
time you call your insurance company or medical office, keep
comprehensive notes—include the date, name and any issues that you
discussed. If it was over email, print it out and keep it with your
other records. If your medical office has an online record keeping
system, print it off and keep it in a secure place.
HCV treatment is very expensive; some insurance
companies have exclusivity agreements for individual HCV medications.
Check with your insurance carrier if there is a preferred HCV drug.
This could limit the choice of drugs. Find out how much your share of
expenses will be. Additionally there are costs associated with
medical appointments and lab tests. Factor all these costs into what
you have to pay.
Try to get answers to the following questions:
Do you have prescription coverage?
If so, what will your out-of-pocket expenses be?
Do you have any reason to
think your medical insurance will stop during treatment, such as a
probable job lay off or a reduction in work hours?
If you do not have prescription coverage, what is the cost of HCV treatment?
How often will you have lab tests done and what is the co-pay?
How often will you need to
see your medical provider and what is the co-pay? Remember, HCV
treatment is typically 12 weeks but for some people it can range from 8
to 24 weeks.
Insurance or not, can you afford the costs associated with HCV treatment?
Patient Assistance Programs:
The pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs to
treat hepatitis C have programs that can provide the medications if
you qualify. Additionally, there are other programs that help with the
co-pays. A list of the Patient Assistance Programs can be found below
and on our website
There are also programs that can help people through the entire
process of physician visits, insurance issues, and specialty doctors.
In the past, some patients were unable to work
while on interferon-based therapies. Now that we have interferon-free
therapies with fewer side effects, this is mostly an issue for people
with more advanced liver disease. In fact for most people, the
workplace issue will mainly involve scheduling medical appointments and
Remember you do not have to
tell your employer you have hepatitis C or that you are taking
hepatitis C medications. Everyone has the right to time off for
medical reasons. However, it is not always that easy, so you should
check in with your employer about your rights and responsibilities.
Also check in with your state health department about your rights. It
is also important to think through the worst-case scenario. Some
people are worried that they may feel sick especially at the beginning
of therapy. This is normal. It might help to schedule a couple of
days off at the beginning of treatment. Talk with your employer about
your sick leave policy, how much you have available and what your
employer’s policies are. You may also be able to use your vacation.
There is also the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—see if you
qualify for this benefit.
The most important issue is likely to be the time that you will need to take off for doctor appointments and lab tests.
Part 2 of this article will discuss Medical Tests, Medications and Side Effect Management, among other things.
Help with Medicines
Patient Assistance Programs
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