What treatments are there for chronic hepatitis C infection?
The medications approved for treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection are:
Peginterferon alfa-2A (Pegasys) and Peginterferon alfa-2B (Peg-Intron): These medications fight hepatitis C by boosting the immune system, protecting healthy cells, and preventing the virus from reproducing. Both of these medications are long-acting, which means that they only have to be taken once a week. They are taken on the same day every week as a self-injection just under the skin.
Pegasys (pegylated interferon alfa-2A) comes in pre-filled syringes and ProClick Redipen. Both of these forms should be stored in the refrigerator. There is also a single-dose vial form, but this is rarely used anymore.
Peg-Intron (pegylated interferon alfa-2B) comes in a single-dose RediPen, which is stored in the refrigerator. There is also a single-dose vial and syringe powder preparation that can be stored at room temperature.
The refrigerated forms of the medication CANNOT be left at room temperature more than 24 hours.
Ribavirin (Rebetol, Copegus, Ribasphere, or RibaPak): Ribavirin works in combination with the interferon to treat hepatitis C. The way ribavirin works is not exactly clear, but it is thought to prevent the hepatitis virus from multiplying. This medication comes in a capsule or tablet form and is taken twice a day. Ribavirin should not be taken without pegylated interferon.
Always take this medication with food. Ribavirin may be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If you forget your dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is close to the time of your next dose, do not take a double dose; skip the missed dose and take the next regularly scheduled dose.
IMPORTANT: Both men and women taking these medications MUST use two forms of birth control during therapy and for up to 6 months after stopping therapy. Ribavirin causes serious birth defects in all animal studies.
Protease inhibitors (Telaprevir or Boceprevir): These medications were specifically made to treat chronic hepatitis C virus. They are only used in patients who have genotype 1. The protease inhibitors work by preventing the virus from replicating, which stops viral production and decreases the viral load in a person’s system.
Protease inhibitors should never be used without Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin.
Both protease inhibitors are administered by mouth in pill form 3 times daily (every 7-9 hours).
- Telaprevir (Incivek): This medication comes in tablets. Two tablets are taken every 7-9 hours with a fatty meal (about 20 grams of fat). This medication is stored at room temperature. It must be taken with a Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin.
- Boceprevir (Victrelis): This medication comes in capsules. Four capsules are taken with a snack every 7-9 hours. Store in the refrigerator at 36°-46° F (2-8° C ) or at room temperature up to 77°F for 3 months. Must be taken with a Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin.