Hepatitis C is a viral infection that results in the inflammation of the liver, which can potentially contribute to serious liver conditions such as liver cancer. If you get diagnosed with hepatitis C, its treatment involves the use of certain medications. Hepatitis C is classified into 6 distinct genotypes. In North America, genotype 1 is the most prevalent strain of the infection.
Until recently, treatment of hepatitis C infections entailed the use of only two medications: interferons and ribavirin. Usually prescribed in combination with ribavirin, interferons used as a treatment for hepatitis C could cause many adverse side effects. However, there are now new drugs known as direct-acting antivirals that have become a preferable alternative to the use of interferons.
Direct-acting antivirals directly target the hepatitis C virus without having a comprehensive impact on the body, causing milder side effects–unlike interferons. Most direct-acting antivirals are only associated with side effects such as lethargy, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea.
Hep C Medication: Protease Inhibitors
Also known as NS3/4A inhibitors, these medications are used to impede the spread of the virus by halting its replication in the body. The most common protease inhibitors are paritaprevir (approved for genotype 1), grazoprevir (approved for genotypes 1 and 4), and simeprevir (also approved for genotypes 1 and 4).
Most of these drugs are taken in conjunction with additional hepatitis C medications. Paritaprevir, for instance, is a part of a combination therapy medication under the name Viekira Pak. Simeprevir is taken with sofosbuvir but may also be used in combination with ribavirin. Finally, grazoprevir is part of a combination therapy under the name Zepatier.
Hep C Medication: NS5A Inhibitors
Also known as directed inhibitors, medications such as daclatasvir, elbasavir, ladispavir, and ombitasvir prevent the multiplication of the virus but also serve as a way to inhibit drug resistance. These medications have FDA-approval for the treatment of genotypes 1, 4, 5, and 6.
Hep C Medication: Polymerase Inhibitors
The hepatitis C virus relies on a protein known as NS5B to live on in the body, and these medications work by depriving the virus of this protein. Here are the polymerase inhibitors used for the treatment of hepatitis C:
Sofosbuvir: Used for the treatment of genotypes 1 through 4.
Harvoni: This is a combination therapy consisting of the drugs sofosbuvir and ledipasvir. Harvoni is used for the treatment of chronic genotype 1.
Viekira Pak: Approved for the treatment of genotype 1, this is a combination therapy consisting of the drugs dasabuvir, ritonavir, ombitasvir, and paritaprevir.
Additional New Hep C Medication Options
Consisting of elbasvir and grazoprevir, Zepatier is approved for the treatment of genotypes 1 and 4. Similar to other antivirals, Zepatier also prevents the replication and survival of the virus in the body.
Typically taken in conjunction with sofosbuvir, daclatasvir is used for the treatment of genotype 3. It is highly effective in individuals without cirrhosis.
Technivie is also a combination therapy used to treat individuals with genotype 4 who do not have liver scarring/damage. This combination treatment usually accompanies the use of ribavirin.