Harvoni and Hepatitis C: Side Effects, Costs, and How It Works

You must have heard about Hepatitis C to be a life-threatening disease in the long run. In fact, it can lead to liver cancer, liver failure, or cirrhosis in untreated or ignored.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a form of viral hepatitis, which is transmitted in infected blood and potentially causes chronic liver disease over time. It is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus or HCV and is a contagious disease. It is usually transmitted through contact as well as via infected blood.

According to a report by WHO, about 71 million people worldwide are infected with the Hepatitis C virus. You will be surprised to know that most people don’t even experience any symptoms of HCV while others may experience one or more of them after so many years.

The following are some common symptoms of HCV if experienced:

  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Mild fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Low energy
  • Joint pain

At a later stage of HCV infection, the symptoms may also include:

  • Vomiting
  • Low-grade fever
  • Severe fatigue
  • Persistent Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Introduction to Harvoni

There have been only a few medications available for the treatment of HCV, including ribavirin and interferons. Not only were these medications ineffective quite often but also brought serious side effects. As a result, the use of these medications required a clear prescription by a doctor.

The approach new treatment brings

Many researchers started their studies in the early 2000s to develop effective ways to cure Hepatitis C Virus.

They tried to develop a drug that could efficiently target the genotype of the Hepatitis C Virus, which is the specific strain of this virus.

While HCV strains have 1 to 6 genotypes, the one that is quite common in the US is genotype 1, which has killed millions over the years.

The new drug is called Direct-acting Antivirals or DAAs, which are able to directly attack the HCV and curb the chances of the virus being replicated. As of today, we can say that DAAs is a major step taken forward to cure Hepatitis C Virus.

Harvoni Approval

Harovani was approved by the FDA back in 2014. In fact, Harvoni came out to be the first combination pill targeted at individuals with genotype 1 to follow an all-oral medication procedure.

This combination pill consists of two drugs sofosbuvir and ledipasvir. As these drugs are DAAs, they work simply by interfering with the action of the protein required for HCV to grow. As a result, HCV fails to multiply. Typically, Harvoni is used for the treatment of individuals with HCV genotypes 1, 4, 5, and 6.

Based on a report, it was found that about 99 percent of individuals who didn’t have cirrhosis and took this drug for 12 weeks would get the cure.

Expectations from the Treatment

Harvoni comes in the form of a tablet that is to be taken once every day before or after food does not matter.

While the treatment with Harvoni takes as long as 12 weeks, treatment of only 8 weeks is enough for some individuals who have never been treated for HCV before.

On the other hand, individuals with cirrhosis of the liver, the treatment may take up to 24 weeks. Doctors recommend taking the medication at the same time every day to get the best possible results. Therefore, make sure to follow the doctor’s advice regarding dosage, as a different dose (smaller or larger) may affect the intended results.

Always remember the fact HCV is highly contagious no matter you are taking the medication or not. In other words, you can pass the HCV to anyone in your contact while taking the medication all this while. Therefore, it is recommended to strictly follow your doctor’s advice regarding HCV transmission prevention and safety.

You might have to undergo frequent blood tests as long as you are availing the treatment. This helps the doctors determine whether or not the virus has been eliminated.

Harvoni Interactions and Side Effects

While the side effects of Harvoni are subject to how your body responds to the medication. If your body does it well as a response to the medication, there may not be a single side effect. The same goes otherwise. The following are some common side effects of Harvoni:

  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Weakness
  • Headache

Some other common side effects of Harvoni include Nausea, Diarrhea, vomiting, and trouble sleeping.

There are some cases of drug interactions that could occur in some individuals who have been taking Harvoni. For instance, you are advised not to take an antacid with about 4 hours of taking this drug.

Moreover, you must stay away from herbal supplements, as these are often prescribed for the treatment of tuberculosis.

Since Harvoni can interact with other medications, there have been multiple cases with different medications. The best way you can avoid any such interaction is to let your doctor about any medication that you are taking before starting the treatment with Harvoni now.

Harvoni is quite Expensive

As you probably already know, the treatment with Harvoni is pretty much expensive. The cost of treatment for about 12 weeks is over $90,000, which is the case wholesale cost. And, the cost will double if you have to take it for 24 weeks.

If you have a health insurance policy in place, make sure you talk to your insurer about the treatment with Harvoni in advance. It is better to know about the coverage of Harvoni before starting the therapy.

Fortunately, the manufacturer of this drug offers an assistance program for individuals who cannot afford treatment with Harvoni. Chances are that your doctor already knows about this program, which is great when your insurance cannot cover the whole cost of the treatment.

Talk to your doctor

While Harvoni is an expensive drug, it is quite effective. This medication is able to clear the HCV from your body during the treatment over a period of 12 weeks if taken correctly.

Therefore, make sure you discuss your treatment with your doctor in advance if you have been diagnosed with HCV.