Originating in the late 80's, Interferon treatment is a gold standard in curing both Hepatitis C and B.
Commonly referred to as interferon treatment, the actual therapy regiment usually consist of three different medications:
- Interferon (pegylated interferon alfa 2a)
- Ribavirin (antiviral drug)
- Protease inhibitor (usually boceprevir and telaprevir)
Interferon is also naturally produced by our body and provides a vital part of our immune system. So when we are treating patients with interferon, we are practically enhancing their supply of interferon so that immune system can with greater ease remove the disease. On the other hand, interferon also has a role in inhibiting the virus spread and growth. The mechanism of action can be better understood by reading this interferon treatment side effects article. The article also talks about interferon clinical studies.
Because interferon is produced in our body to fight of flu – it is because of interferon action that we experience fever, headaches and shivers. The upside, of course, is that we get rid of the flu during the process. The problem with increasing supply of interferon via administration for Hepatitis C treatment is that we get these flu-like problems as side effects.
For treatment of Hep C, interferon is produced in the laboratory by the means of organic chemistry. The usual delivery system to the patients is by injection under the skin (subcutaneous injection). The problem that causes most of the interferon treatment side effects are the high doses on interferon that are injected. However, until recently this was the most state-of-the-art Hepatitis C treatment out there.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR INTERFERON TREATMENT?
In order to start treatment by interferon and ribavirin, a patient must have confirmed Hepatitis C disease. While the most certain test in liver biopsy, which is also the most dangerous for the patient, doctors in most of the cases treat patients that have indications of Hepatitis C.
The most fundamental of these indications is an increase in one of the serum enzymes – alanine aminotransferase or ALT. Other that then, here are some more indications:
Age greater than 18 years
Positive HCV antibody and serum HCV RNA test results
Compensated liver disease
Acceptable hematologic and biochemical indices
Willingness to be treated and to adhere to treatment requirements
No contraindications for treatment
The likelihood of establishing if you have Hepatitis C and the treatment you will get is based on these indications – they serve as Hepatitis C symptoms for doctors. If you have all of them, then the likelihood of being treated is the highest.
CHANCES OF GETTING CURED OF HEP C WITH INTERFERON TREATMENT?
In short, 50% to 60%. It depends on Hepatitis C genotype. Different genotypes come from different kinds of Hepatitis C virus. Interferon together with ribavirin and protease inhibitors boceprevir or telaprevir is very useful for people with genotypes 2 and 3 – the treatment is successful in more than 75% cases. However, more problematic is the most common genotype 1 where less the treatment works for less than 50% of Hepatitis C patients.
What we call interferon is in science and medical community more known as pegylated interferon alfa-2a. In the past pegylated interferon alfa-2b was also used, but today 2a is commonly used. Interferon in such form is sold and marketed under trade name Referon A and Pegasys. It is used to treat Hepatitis C patients, including those co-infected with HIV, experiencing liver cirrhosis. In many cases people are treated with interferon despite having normal levels of ALT – the prime indicator for Hep C. This type of interferon is also approved to treat chronic Hepatitis B patients. Other kinds of interferon are used to treat cancer.
Additionally, the problem with interferon treatment is that Hepatitis C virus is in many cases resistant against interferon – we talk about virus resistance. Because interferon is used for more than 20 years, the Hepatitis C virus has already learned to fight of the interferon by mutating to interferon-resistant virus. On the other hand, Sofosbuvir which is a completely new drug is that more effective against Hep C because there is no known resistance. In another 20 years, of course Sofosbuvir-resistant virus is expected, but for now there is nothing in the respect of HCV resistance to fear when using Sofosbuvir.