Sherman said the patients who received a shorter course of treatment had lower rates of side effects and were less likely to stop treatment than those treated for 48 weeks. "In practice, this would be associated with lower treatment costs and better tolerability compared to use of 48-week treatment regimens," he said.
Another hepatitis specialist who was not involved in the study praised the findings.
"The standard medications for this disease have quite bothersome side effects, including flu-like symptoms, depression and hair loss, so if we're able to shorten the treatment duration by six months, that's worth quite a bit," said Dr. Nancy S. Reau, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Nearly 4 million Americans live with this difficult-to-manage disease, which can lead to liver cancer and is the number one cause of liver transplants in the United States. However, only about 25 percent of people are aware of their diagnosis because the virus can lurk in the body for years before patients begin to feel symptoms.
Many people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Sex with an infected person can also spread hepatitis C, and some patients contracted the virus through blood transfusions decades ago, before donor screening began in 1990.
Some patients responded so quickly to the regimen that they may have been able to shorten treatment time to fewer than 24 weeks, Sherman noted. "However, this was not investigated in this study, and would requir
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