According to the CDC, all “Baby Boomers” should get tested for hepatitis C. This is based only on age and for this recommendation Baby Boomers are defined as those born between 1945 and 1965
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral infection of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver transplant, and death. It has been found to be very common in this age group, and, as they age, the consequences of the infection can be more severe and be irreversible before there are any symptoms at all!
The CDC also recommends that people who test positive for HCV be counseled about alcohol intake and referred to a liver disease specialist, who is familiar with the treatments available. This is particularly important now for several reasons.
Liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is one of the fastest growing cancers, and this is driven by hepatitis C infections. These infections can be treated successfully as a result of early detection, like many other cancers – but if you don’t know you have HCV, you can’t be screened for liver cancer.
What is even more important for Baby Boomers to know is that the treatments for HCV have advanced exponentially in the past two years, going from a 40 percent cure rate for one year of treatment to about 70 percent for as little as 24 weeks of treatment. The emphasis here is on the word “cure.”
HCV can be totally cleared from the body, and usually most of the liver damage that has been done can be erased. The latest medical treatments, specifically the classes of antiviral compounds called direct acting antivirals (DAA’s), have made a huge impact on the cure rate recently. The DAA’s on the market now both need to be used with the drugs interferon and ribavirin, and the side effectsare rather severe for both combinations. In spite of these drawbacks, we here at Mount Sinai have found ways to minimize the side effects of these combinations and have cured many people who are urgently in need of treatment.
The really good news is that two new drugs are expected to be FDA-approved by the end of this year. In clinical trials, these new compounds have demonstrated fewer side effects than the current treatment options, and even better outcomes. At least one of them could be approved to treat genotype 2 HCV without interferon. On the horizon, three or four additional compounds are expected to be available in 2014 that, in combination, have demonstrated efficacy rates as high as 95 percentin clinical trials and could be prescribed for 12 weeks with no interferon at all.
The future is extremely bright for the treatment of HCV. We here at Mount Sinai Liver Medicine Group are offering many of these new compounds in clinical trials now without interferon.
So, if you are a Baby Boomer or someone who may be at risk for HCV, we urge you to get tested at one of our three upcoming free screening events in Washington Heights, Flushing (Queens) or Chelsea:
- On Wednesday, May 15, from 11am to 3pm, we will conduct screenings at the Hispaniola Medical Care / Priority Medical Specialties in Washington Heights, located at 5 & 19 Hamilton Place, New York, NY 10031, and the Liver Medicine Center at Mount Sinai Comprehensive Health in Chelsea, located at 275 7th Ave, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10001.
- Additionally, on Sunday, May 19 (National Hepatitis Testing Day), free HCV testing will be available at Hepatobiliary Associates of New York in Flushing, located at 26-19 Francis Lewis Blvd, Bayside, NY 11358, from 11am to 3pm.
For those with HCV or know someone with the virus, check out our clinical trials page for more information.
Dr. Douglas Dieterich is the Professor of Medicine in the Division of Liver Diseases and also Director of Continuing Medical Education in the Department of Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.