At DDC Orlando, we think it is ironic that a hepatitis C medication, Harvoni, is being broadly advertised in a saturation
campaign on television. It is ironic in a good way, because October is Liver Disease Awareness Month. So, maybe it is not a coincidence at all.
Most assuredly the makers of Harvoni have an acute awareness, of Hepatitis C and its connection to liver failure. And now, with Liver Disease Awareness on everyone’s mind, it is the best time to make sure everyone knows about this amazing medication. Harvony is indeed a medicine worth celebrating celebrate.
Meet Harvoni for a Hopeful Future in Spite of Hepatitis C
Harvoni, one of the new medications for hepatitis C, is actually two drugs in one pill, taken daily for 8,12, or 48 weeks,
depending on your case.
This new medicine combines sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) with ledipasvir. Together they are designed to give the Hepitis C virus a knock-out punch.
Back in 2014, the authorities in Europe first approved for adults with genotype 1 or 4 chronic hepatitis. Likewise, we now know some patients with genotype 3 can take it.
For many patients Harvoni is the perfect prescription for three reasons:
1. It is interferon-free and ribavirin-free, making the treatment easier to tolerate, and faster.
2. If you have the difficult-to-treat variety of Hepatitis C, your doctor might add ribavirin.
3. Successful treatment requires 8-12 weeks in most cases. You will then enjoy reduction in the risk of the long-term complications of hepatitis C. Keep in mind those unsavory risks include liver failure, liver cancer and liver transplants.
Hard-working Harvoni Cures Hepatitis C at the Microscopic Level
To put it simply, the two drugs within Harvoni attack different parts of the hepatitis C (HVC) lifecycle.
1. Sofosbuvir : “This drug is a nucleotide analogue HCV polymerase inhibitor…” In regular English, that means it can block a certain polymerase enzyme. That enzyme happens to be the one that allows the virus to reproduce.
2. Ledipasvir: Meanwhile the Ledipasvir also attacks the virus. It is a type of drug called an HCV NS5A replication complex inhibitor, and it basically attacks a different protein, which HCV requires for reproduction.
Learn about Harvoni to See if it is Right for You
As stated above, your doctor might prescribe this treatment if you are an adult who has suffered with chronic hepatitis for more than 6 months. Patients also must be type 1 or 4 genotype, although some genotype 3’s are able to tolerate it. (In Europe, Genotype 1 is the most common.)
Moreover, Harvoni can be used by people being treated for hepatitis C for the very first time. It is equally effective for the re-treatment of people who were previously using interferon-based therapy.
Therefore, in medical parlance, we see that Harvoni works for both treatment-naïve patients and treatment-experienced patients.
Harvoni and HIV with HCV Co-infection
1. Yes, you can still take Harvoni! Scientists tested response rates and side-effects for patients co-infected with HIV and HCV. Remarkably the results “are similar to those of HIV-negative people, and Harvoni can be used with most HIV medications.”
2. Digestive Disease Consultants caution patients with both of these infections to trust doctors who have experience with Harvoni and the treatment protocols required by both infections.
3. We also think it is remarkable that patients with all different stages of liver disease can still use Harvoni. In fact it has been successful for people who await liver transplants, as well as for those who have already received a new liver.
How to Take Harvoni:
Taking Harvoni is a lot simpler than the old style medications for Hepatitis C.In the first place, it is an oral medication.
You do not have to report to a clinic and have an injections daily or weekly. Take a single pill, once a day, as your doctor directs, and you can choose to take it with food or without food. Check out these rules to live by:
- Special Caution: “Harvoni is not approved for people with HCV genotypes 2, 5 or 6.
- People with genotype 2 should use sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) plus ribavirin, not the Harvoni combination pill.”
- The length of time you will be taking your daily dose of Harvoni depends on your case.
Likewise, count on your doctor to possibly prescribe ribavirin as an accompanying medication for your treatment regime, depending on:
- your HCV genotype,
- the amount of damage existing in your liver,
- and your prior treatment history.
At Digestive Disease Consutants, Orlando, we note that the Mayo clinic has declared the importance of following your prescription orders.
“The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor’s orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.”
At Digestive Diseases Consultants, the doctors and staff agree with this good advice.
Harvoni and its Effectiveness
Those same three factors listed above will help determine the effectiveness of this medication, customized for you. However, now we need to advise you that scientists have found Harvoni works better in some cases than others.
The drug trials and studies have revealed:
The Liver Fibrosis Factor- “Sometimes people with advanced liver disease may not respond as well as those with mild or moderate liver fibrosis.”
The ‘Newbie’ Factor- “People who are new to treatment might have a better chance of being cured than those who did not respond to prior treatment.”
A Factor of Time-“These factors may be overcome by longer treatment…”
An Additional Therapy- The addition of ribavirin might make the drug work better or “prevent a relapse of Hepatitis C.”
The Interferon Factor- Do not judge Harvoni by the standards that classically indicate interferon-based therapy will be ineffective. We are delighted to inform you that those factors do not make do not make as much difference with an interferon-free treatment like Harvoni.
Harvoni Treatment Happiness
Now, brace yourself, for the results. The cure rate with this new treatment regime is in the 90 to 100 percent. It is tested through blood work, and if you still are a patient with “sustained virological response, who still have undetectable HCV viral load 12 weeks after finishing treatment (known as ‘SVR12’),” your status is considered cured.
One Final Take-Away Note
Right off the printing press, straight out of Gilead’s inner wrapper, we have one more very
“Before starting treatment with HARVONI, your healthcare provider will do blood tests to check for hepatitis B infection. If you have ever had hepatitis B, the hepatitis B virus could become active again during or after treatment with HARVONI.
This may cause serious liver problems, including liver failure and death. Your healthcare provider will monitor you if you are at risk for hepatitis B reactivation during and after you stop taking HARVONI.”