Hepatitis C: Treatment

Overview

Hepatitis C is curable. The treatment of hepatitis C has made great progress since the virus was identified in 1988. In the past the chances of being cured were lower, and the side-effects of older forms of treatment made it hard to tolerate for many people.

Nowadays, the vast majority of people who qualify for treatment will be cured after a short course of treatment with few side-effects. Newer treatments are costly, so most health authorities in Europe are giving priority to people with advanced liver disease or symptoms of hepatitis C that are causing serious problems. 

In countries with fewer resources for health, older forms of treatment continue to be available.

Glossary

cirrhosis

Scarring of the liver – the structure of the liver is altered. See also ‘fibrosis’, which is moderate scarring. See also ‘compensated cirrhosis’ and ‘decompensated cirrhosis’.

genotype

A strain or subtype of a virus. For hepatitis C, genotypes are identified by a number (e.g. genotypes 1,2,3,4,5 and 6); some subtypes have also been identified (e.g. genotypes 1a and 1b). For hepatitis B, genotypes are identified by a letter (A to H). The genotype may influence the risk of disease progression for both viruses; some genotypes respond differently to some treatments.

The type of treatment you receive depends on your hepatitis C viral genotype. It also depends on how much your liver has been damaged by hepatitis C. If you have cirrhosis (advanced liver damage) you may need to take a longer course of treatment. You may also need to take the drug ribavirin as part of your treatment if you have cirrhosis, in order to give the best chance of a cure.

This information was originally adapted from Hepatitis C: Understanding a silent killer, published by the European Liver Patients Association. It was updated in 2016.