Feature Archive

Turning the Corner in Hepatitis C Treatment

Newer medications are making a difference, and better ones may be on the way.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

Getting diagnosed with hepatitis C can be frightening, and it's natural to worry. You may have heard that treatment is difficult. Or you may wonder if you'll need a liver transplant someday. But while hepatitis C is undeniably a serious disease, it's not as bad as many people imagine.

"For people who have just been diagnosed, it's normal for hepatitis C to be a source of worry," says Paul Berk, MD, professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and Chair of the American Liver Foundation. "But it shouldn't be a source of panic."

The facts are reassuring. Even without treatment, most people with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) live decades without having any symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 40-80% of all patients can now be essentially cured with current treatment regimens. Moreover, new drugs are in development that may radically improve the prognosis.

This is impressive progress for a disease that was only identified in 1989.

"If you've been newly diagnosed, you really should be optimistic," Berk tells WebMD. "This is a disease that's going to be manageable."

Understanding Hepatitis C

Almost 4 million people in the U.S. are infected with hepatitis C, according to the CDC. Most don't know they have it. Hepatitis C causes few symptoms. Indeed, many of the people who are infected have had the virus for years. They may have contracted it from a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, when supplies began to be screened for the disease.