Thousands die from hepatitis C every year, even though we have a nearly foolproof cure. A new plan would change that.
By Jonathan Cohn Nov 26, 2023, 08:00 AM EST |Updated Nov 26, 2023 HUFF POST
Dying from hepatitis C is a notoriously miserable way to go.
The virus attacks your liver ― in many cases, destroying its ability to make proteins and filter blood. You might not notice at first, because it can inflict damage gradually and “silently” until finally you start to feel symptoms that could include fatigue, jaundice, mental disorientation, severe itching and joint pain. Your belly could fill up with so much fluid that doctors have to drain it, while gastrointestinal difficulties might have you vomiting up blood.
This could go on for months or years, and eventually your liver could fail completely. A transplant might save you, but only if you can get one, and only if it works.
Hepatitis C kills thousands of Americans every year, making it the nation’s deadliest bloodborne infectious disease. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
There’s a cure for hepatitis C that works in almost all cases ― an antiviral medication that’s been around for a decade, needs to be taken for just two or three months, and has relatively mild side effects. But lots of Americans diagnosed with the disease aren’t getting the drug because it’s too expensive, or they’re getting it only after the virus has already done severe damage. Takeup is worst among low-income groups and uninsured people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although even among the privately insured, only about one-third have initiated treatment within a year of testing positive.
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