Manage Your Liver

Top 5 sacrifices and risks of antiviral treatment for hepatitis C patients!

Top 5 sacrifices and risks of antiviral treatment for hepatitis C patients!

Currently, the most common chronic hepatitis C treatment option is antiviral treatment. Hepatitis C patients often consider antiviral treatment their only way out, so they decide to adopt this treatment without fully understanding the risks and sacrifices they have to make.

First, let’s not debate if this treatment approach is correct at this moment. Instead, we hope to explore the price patients have to pay when receiving this treatment, to help patients to gain a better understanding of the risks of this treatment, and to bring different things into consideration so as to help patients make a decision.


1. Low success rate

We believe this is the issue hepatitis C patients concern most. To this date the success rate of antiviral treatment remains low. Take interferon therapy for example, the success rate is only about 45-65%. [1] Although the latest antiviral drugs claim to have a high success rate, this might not be true in reality, the success rate may be lower than what the clinical data suggests.This is because the success rate of treatment can be affected by the severity of hepatitis, viral load and the level of fibrosis. [1] Therefore, the actual success rate varies, and if liver damage is severe, the success rate may be even lower.

Moreover, the success rate suggested in these data is only applicable to a particular hepatitis C genotype – Genotype 1. [1] Pharmaceutical companies claiming their drugs to have high success rate is just like car manufacturers claiming their cars to be fuel-saving. Car manufacturers claim that their fuel consumption data is absolutely legitimate, but in actual real life use, we all know the fuel consumption is always higher then what they brag.


2. High treatment costs

The majority of hepatitis C patients are fully aware of the extremely expensive price of antiviral treatment. Take the latest antiviral drug as example: the cost of a 12-week treatment is $94,500. If the patient requires a 24-week treatment, it will cost him $189,000. That is an average of $1,125 per day. [2][3] For such a large sum of money it would only be normal to expect a higher success rate. In fact, at this price, the treatment should even guarantee liver function and liver health returning to normal, rather than merely eliminating the hepatitis C virus!


3. Be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy

Some patients have health insurance which can cover the cost of treatment, but patients need to know that is it often not easy to claim for such an expensive treatment. Patients are likely to spend a lot of time and energy dealing with the insurance company, overcoming disputes and entanglement before getting their claims. [4] The chance of claim also depends on the severity of hepatitis C. Currently, insurance companies tend to only approve the treatment to more severe hepatitis C patients (with fibrosis score of FIB-3 or FIB-4). [5]


4. Serious side effects that affects daily life

All drugs have side effects, but the side effects of antiviral treatment can be especially strong. There are numerous cases where patients were not able to cope with the side effects and needed to stop the treatment. In one of the cases, the patient almost died during treatment, because it was suspected that the side effects caused internal bleeding. [6] 

Other more common side effects include: headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, insomnia, hair loss, diarrhea, coughing, etc. [7] These side effects can cause great damage to the body, affecting metabolism and immunity, and they are likely to affect the patient's daily activities and work. Therefore before starting antiviral treatment, patients need to take into account the impact to their daily life.


5. Psychological damage

Imagine if you have fought with your insurance companies and successfully got your claims, and then went through all the side effects, but finally the treatment is unsuccessful … It is very likely that these patients will suffer a setback psychologically.

It might sound harsh, but patients must understand that no one is accountable for the consequences of treatment failure; pharmaceutical companies and doctors will not take any responsibility, there will be no refund, and no one will be liable for the damages brought by adverse drug reactions or side effects.

This feeling of despair can affect the patients’ attitude and psychological state, which is very important when fighting long term illness. The disappointment can greatly affect physical recovery. [6]


The above 5 points are the most obvious sacrifices and risks that hepatitis C patients have to face when going through antiviral treatment. We strongly recommend patients to have a thorough understanding of all the risks before deciding their treatment methods, and should definitely consider these questions beforehand: Is antiviral treatment necessary? Is it worth it when there is no guarantee in success? Or instead, should the treatment approach focus primarily on reducing inflammation in the liver and improving liver health?

  • * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.
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