Advances in Hepatitis C Treatment Provide Incentive for Screening
The most common blood-borne viral infection in the United States, Hepatitis C (HCV), can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. It impacts more than 4 million people, the vast majority “baby boomers,” those born 1945-1965, who are encouraged to undergo a simple HCV blood test as significant breakthroughs have been made recently to successfully treat this disease.
Research by medical professionals and physicians like Mercy Medical Center’s own Dr. Paul Thuluvath, Dr. Anurag Maheshwari and Dr. Hwan Y. Yoo of The Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease have led to the development of a new class of drugs with few side-effects and a 95 percent cure rate.
“In the past, Hepatitis C might be treated with injections of Interferon (an immune stimulant) that could cause severe anemia, rashes and was often ineffective in impacting the disease. Now we are dealing with a new class of interferon-free drugs – Direct Acting Anti-Virals – that have no such side effects. Patients take one pill a day for three months, and we’ll see a 95% cure rate for Hepatitis C,” Dr. Thuluvath said.
According to Dr. Maheshwari, it may take decades before those with Hepatitis C develop symptoms and “about 75 percent of those with the disease don’t even know they have it. The vast majority of them are baby boomers, that is, those born between 1945 and 1965,” he said.
In fact, a number of medical/health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, all now recommend that all baby boomers should be screened for Hepatitis C.
“More than three out of every four adults infected with HCV are baby boomers, so it is important that these individuals get checked,” Dr. Thuluvath said. “It’s a simple blood test than can be performed by a primary care physician. Done in a doctor’s office, it’s a test that can literally save your life.”
When patient Linda Cornwall, despite having no risk factors, learned that she had Hepatitis C, she “was shocked to say the least,” she said. Ms. Cornwall, who participated in one of the phase 2/phase 3 trials for the new Hep-C drugs, noted she was still clear of the infection even “after three months off the medication. And I had no side effects; absolutely none.”
Dr. Maheshwari noted that even without prior ascertainment of HCV risk factors, “adults born during that 1945 to 1965 range should be tested.”
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.
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