The Liver department at The London Clinic treats many patients each year with the Hepatitis C viral infection. Treatment can be challenging, with success depending on which genotype (strain) of hepatitis C you have. New drug treatments are now available to boost success rates significantly.

Treatment of chronic hepatitis C is important as clearing the virus from the body can prevent long-term liver damage, such as cirrhosis (irreversible scarring of the liver), liver failure and liver cancer.

Treatments for hepatitis C

The standard therapy that we offer is:

  • Pegylated interferon (an injection of a protein to stimulate the immune system to attack virus cells. This involves you making a small injection yourself once a week. You can be shown how to do this by a Specialist Hepatitis C Nurse.
  • Ribavirin: antiviral tablets active against the spread of hepatitis C in the body.

This treatment can clear the hepatitis C virus from the body in 80-90 % of cases if treatment is started soon after exposure, and if the infection is caused by genotypes 2 or 3 of the hepatitis C virus. Find out more about the genotypes of hepatitis C.

If the infection is due to any of the other 4 genotypes, or if treatment is started once the infection has become chronic, clearance of the virus is greatly reduced.

New hope for hepatitis C patients

In 2011, 2 new drugs were approved to treat people with hepatitis C. This is a significant advance, as these are the first new treatments to be approved in the USA or Europe for 20 years.

  • Victrelis (Boceprevir®) available in the UK since July 2011when it was passed for approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
  • Telaprevir (Incivek®) was also approved by the EMA in the late summer of 2011 and can now be added to the standard therapy for patients with hepatitis C in our outpatient clinic.

Both these drugs have been shown to significantly increase the chances of clearing the virus in some cases of Hepatitis C infection.

Side effects of hepatitis C treatment

Hepatitis C infection can cause no symptoms but treatment with interferon can produce several side effects:

  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Concentration difficulties
  • An itchy rash
  • Mild anaemia
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Poor sleep.

The London Clinic has a Specialist Hepatitis C Nurse that can support you during your treatment and discuss any side effects with you.

We always assess patients after 12 weeks to find out whether the treatment is clearing the hepatitis C virus from their system. If there are no signs by this time that the treatment is working, it is stopped. Unfortunately, some patients do not respond and if this is the case, it is not worth continuing to put up with the side effects.

We may offer a second course of treatment in some cases, as the evidence shows that some patients do respond better the second time round.

Trade names quoted are given as examples only of the drug types described, alternatives may be available.