There may be tests your medical provider will order before you start treatment:
ribavirin is part of your treatment you will need to verify that you
are not pregnant before starting treatment. This is also true if you
are a female partner of a male patient starting treatment.
HCV-RNA or viral load test—This is used to confirm active infection and as a baseline test.
test determines the strain of hepatitis C—there are seven genotypes.
Genotype 1 is the most common followed by genotype 2 and 3. Genotype
information is used to determine what HCV treatment to take and for how
long to take it.
include a variety of tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC),
diabetes, thyroid and liver tests. Your general health will be
assessed, especially if you are older than 40 or 50 years old or at
risk for various medical problems.
Medical and dental procedures—In
some cases, it may be a good idea to have any serious medical, and
dental procedures completed well in advance prior to beginning HCV
therapy. If the medical or dental procedure is not severe, you may be
able to postpone it until after treatment, so your body has a chance to
recover from treatment. Discuss this with your doctor.
Immunizations—You can be immunized while on treatment.
therapy can cause anxiety and though uncommon, depression. Talk with
your medical provider if you are concerned about this. Medication can
provides relief relatively quickly.
HCV treatment consists of
pills. Talk to your medical provider about how and when to take them.
Be prepared—ask your medical provider ahead of time if you miss a
dose, when you should take the next dose. If you plan on traveling,
make a copy of your prescriptions to take with you.
You may have to use a specialty/mail order
pharmacy, rather than a brick and mortar pharmacy like Walgreens or
CVS. They both have similar services:
Specialty pharmacies ship to
your home or office. With a regular pharmacy you control where and
when to pick up the prescription.
Both can offer support services—nurses, websites and other services to help manage your therapy.
Both can remind you when to re-order or will automatically refill orders.
A favorable treatment
outcome is associated with your ability to stay on the prescribed dose
of medication for the entire duration of treatment. In addition,
completion of treatment goes hand in hand with good side effect
management—this means treating the side effects before they become
worse. For more information about side effect management see the
Resource section at the end of this article.
usually temporary and should gradually fade away after treatment is
completed. This may take weeks or months; rarely up to a year.
The most common side effects of
current therapy are fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia.
However, it is important to know that not everyone has these
particular side effects, and most people do not have severe side
effects. In clinical trials for current therapies, less than 1% of
individuals had side effects that required discontinuation of
HCV treatment is a process that requires getting the
mind and body ready and in shape. Alcohol, especially in large
quantities, can accelerate HCV disease progression. Some insurance
companies and medical providers are denying HCV treatment to people who
consume alcohol and drugs, including medical marijuana. You may be
required to abstain from alcohol and drugs for 6 months and attend a
12-step program. Talk to your medical provider about any concerns or
Light to moderate exercise is
recommended for most people with hepatitis C. Check in with your
medical provider before starting any exercise program. Before
beginning treatment, slowly build up to a comfortable level. There are
many ways to get exercise such as walking, yoga, and dancing to name a
If ribavirin is part of HCV treatment:
Women of childbearing age, their partners and female
partners of male patients taking ribavirin must practice two forms of
reliable contraception during to 6 months post-treatment.
be avoided throughout treatment and for six months after treatment has
ended. The guidelines are to use two reliable forms of birth control.
Reliable means using medically accepted contraceptive methods and
using them correctly. Whatever you choose, know how to use the method
correctly. Also, notice the word two. This
means that if you use two forms of birth control and one fails, then
you have back-up protection. If you or your partner needs information
about birth control, talk to your medical provider or family planning
It is important to remember
to take the pills every day. The makers of HCV drugs make it very
easy, but no one is perfect. Plan ahead—get a calendar. Mark off the
day when you take the pill(s). This can be a great motivation to
know that you have completed one day of treatment, and you can look
forward to the end of treatment and hopefully a cure.
It is important to set a goal before treatment. Why
do you want to be treated? Write them down and refer to them while on
treatment. It is an excellent way to stay motivated. Just remember
that, even though, the cure rates are very high not everyone can be
cured at this time. Planning ahead and staying the course will give
you the best opportunity to be cured, and that is really all you can
Resources: Patient Assistance
Help with Medicines
Patient Assistance Programs
For Part 1 of this article click here