Hepatitis C Cure

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Once considered a chronic and often deadly disease, now doctors are using a powerful word to describe the results of a new treatment for Hepatitis C.

Dr. Donald Jensen, University of Chicago Medicine: “This is a curable disease.”

It is news University of Chicago Medicine’s Dr. Donald Jensen is happy to spread. For 25 years he’s treated patients with hepatitis c, a virus that attacks the liver and causes inflammation. Over time, tissue in the organ turns to scar, cirrhosis sets in.

Dr. Jensen: “It’s like marbling in beef. It’s throughout the liver.”

Patients can develop liver cancer. More commonly, they end up in liver failure and require a transplant. But many don’t realize they have the virus.

Dr. Jensen: “The most common symptom is fatigue, which is pretty common for all of us.”

Judy Palmer knew something was wrong six weeks after she received a blood transfusion due to complications following the birth of her daughter.

Judy Palmer: “I started turning jaundiced and having abdominal pain.”

That was years before doctors even had a name for the virus that was attacking Judy’s liver. In the early 1990s, doctors used interferon alone – an injectable medication that suppresses the virus. But the medicine’s severe side effects, lengthy 12-month course and low success rates deterred many patients. But Judy forged ahead.

Judy Palmer: “My response was always the same … as soon as I was off treatment the virus came back.”

Dr. Jensen: “In 1999 we added another medication called ribavirin and that boosted the success rate from in the teens and 20s to around 40%. In 2011 we added a third drug.”

A protease inhibitor, an oral medication that turns off a genetic switch and stops the virus from replicating.

Dr. Jensen: “Adding a protease inhibitor to a backbone of interferon and ribavirin then boosted the success rate to up to 75%, which is a huge step up.”

Dr. Jensen tested the new combination as part of a clinical trial. Judy signed on. Since that time she’s been virus free.

Judy Palmer: “I tell people this is my miracle. After 30 years I never thought I’d see this day.”

Dr. Jensen: “When we follow those patients out beyond six months and out to 10 years, 98% of those people remain virus undetectable, their liver goes back toward normal, there’s no virus in their liver. At the very least it freezes the disease at the stage they were cured.”

Fifty-seven year old Michael Marcotte is hoping the new drug combination will help him, too. Diagnosed in the early 1990s, he put off treatment, waiting for a more promising therapy.

Michael Marcotte: “It’s scary, when you hear those words that you’re that close to cirrhosis, you can only imagine what goes through your mind. This is like a new lease on life to me.”

Doctors say 75% of Hep C patients are likely baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, but most don’t now they have the virus. Now the CDC is recommending one-time screening, which will likely uncover 800,000 new cases.

University of Chicago Medicine doctors are looking for more patients to enroll in drug trials. Go to http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/features/hepatitisc-cure.html to learn more.

If you’d like information about the HCV Cure support group for patients, call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200

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  • Bob

    I'm currently 6 wks into a 12 week interferon free trial.
    It's not that bad, one of the drugs I am taking is ribavirin, which accounts for the side effects that I have.
    The new drugs apparently have little to no side effects, and one of the study arms is ribavirin free as well.
    The ribavirin makes one very tired and dehydrated if you don't watch your liquid intake.
    I found out that I have the virus 4 years ago and have been waiting for a therapy that wasn't so debilitating as the current approved therapy is.
    I have been harboring the virus for about 41 years and never knew it. I only got checked because I have now seen 4 people die from it's complications, my doctor couldn't understand why I wanted to be tested because my liver panels were normal.
    I am fortunate to have only stage 1 fibrosis.
    I guess my point is, is that there is help on the way.
    The new therapies will only be 12 weeks, very few side effects and will have a success rate approaching 100 percent.
    Good luck to you all.

  • mark anthony mirador

    i like to volunteer as a patient to be test for these kind of medical experiment, coz i also have a hep b. i want to be treated.

  • randy

    I'am glad i found this page, i have chronic .All be 57 yrs i never could figure out why i was getting so tired, and some days my bones just seam too hurt like hell.you all give me hope

  • Lawrence Worden

    I was infected with Hep C from an Operating Room Tech who was using the pre-anthesia drug, replacing it with normal saline and putting the syringe and needle back on the patient's prep-tray which was later used on the patients. He actually admitted his actions. Before he was stopped he had infected 46 patients. For a long time I stayed at Stage 1. Due to very little effect and my reaction & the side effects I was taken off the therapy and monitored. The side effects were close to being intolerable. I slipped to Stage 4 very quickly and went through a transplant. The virus did not leave my body and is now starting to show back up in my new liver. I have had 5 blood transfusions since the transplant, had a hernia removed-it seems like there….(I just drew a blank in my mind). The doctors are treating the symptoms, but the list of adverse effects on my eyes, kidneys, brain damage has gotten to the point I can't remember a lot of things, I'll be in the middle of a sentence and just absolutely loose track of what I had been talking about and the up and down from one day feeling all right to the nest day flat on my back is craziness. I can't drive, I'm forced to using a cane because of the lack of balance. I have virtually no appetite and I have lost almost 100 pounds. My wife has to dispense my meds because I can't keep track.

    As far as things go for me, I find this disease just hideous and being infected the way we were just adds to the frustration. I know that the sign that there is a cure, or it seems like the odds are much higher is super, but I almost died during the phase where they added the other drugs to interferon. I'm excited for those who have been cured by adding the new drug,

  • Johnnetta

    I have hep c and I stay very tired and hurt all the time. I have been forced to invoke my right under the family medical leave act (fmla) because I have been off of work for sometime. This coupled with muliple myeloma is very debilatating. I have not had an income for two weeks and when next pay comes (April 27) I will not get paid again. I did not choose this disease, it chose me thru a blood transfusion ib the 80s. I will see my dr again this Friday to see what he can do about the pain, itching and constant fatigue. I wish all well with their recoveries . Please keep me in mind

    Love always

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