Treatment basics for people living with Hep C

Basic information on hepatitis C treatment


Treatment can cure hepatitis C

Hepatitis C treatments are very effective and cure more than 95% of people with hepatitis C. Everyone who has hepatitis C should talk to their doctor or nurse about their treatment options.

For more information, please see Treatment in CATIE’s Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide.

Medicines used to treat hepatitis C

Hepatitis C treatments come in pill form, have few side effects and are usually taken for eight or 12 weeks. For most people, treatment means taking one to three pills once a day.

Hepatitis C treatments stop the virus from being able to make copies of itself. Over the weeks of treatment, the virus is cleared from the body. In some cases, like severe liver injury, a medicine called ribavirin may be added to hepatitis C treatment.

For more information about hepatitis C drugs, please see Chronic hepatitis C treatment combinations.

Preparing to start and stay on treatment

Talk to your doctor or nurse about these questions while you think about treatment:

Are there different types of the hepatitis C virus?

There are several different strains, or genotypes, of the hepatitis C virus. Some treatments work for all genotypes, while others work for specific genotypes. Your doctor or nurse will help you choose the best treatment for your strain of hepatitis C.

How much liver injury do I have?

Your doctor or nurse will order tests to see if you have any liver injury. Knowing how much liver injury you have helps you and your doctor or nurse choose the best treatment for your hepatitis C.

If you have severe liver injury (called cirrhosis), you will need to get checked for liver cancer regularly. This usually means getting a liver ultrasound every six months.

Will I be able to follow the pill schedule?

It is important to stay on track with taking your pills. This means taking your pills every day for the entire length of treatment, as prescribed by your doctor or nurse. This gives the treatment the best chance of curing your hepatitis C.

Part of getting ready to take treatment is setting up the supports you’ll need to stick to your treatment. Your doctor or nurse can help you.

What if I use street drugs?

You can get treated and cured for hepatitis C while still using drugs. Treatments work just as well to cure hepatitis C if you are using drugs. You deserve respectful care by doctors, nurses and other health workers. Talk about your situation with a health worker you trust.

Some hepatitis C medicines can change the effects of the drugs you use, which can contribute to an overdose. The first time you use drugs after you start treatment, start slowly, use with someone you trust and keep Naloxone nearby.

What if I am pregnant or want to have a baby?

The hepatitis C medicine ribavirin can cause severe birth defects and must not be taken during pregnancy. Both partners should not use ribavirin at least six months before trying to get pregnant. There is not a lot of information yet about the safety of newer treatments during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the best treatment options for you.

More questions for your doctor or nurse

  • Do I have other health conditions that could affect my hepatitis C treatment?
  • Will other medications or supplements (such as vitamins or herbal medicines) affect my treatment?

For more information, please see Getting ready for hepatitis C treatment.

Paying for treatment

For most people, the cost of treatment is covered through public health insurance plans (provincial, territorial or federal). For others, private insurance plans will cover it (these are usually insurance plans that you may have through work). Speak with your doctor or nurse about your options.

For more information, please see hepatitis C treatment coverage in your region.

Staying healthy

After being cured of hepatitis C, you need to continue to take care of your health and the health of your liver.

You can get hepatitis C again after you have been cured. Learn how to keep yourself and others safe from hepatitis C.

For more information on staying healthy, please see Living with hepatitis C.

For more information about keeping yourself and others safe, please see Prevention & Harm Reduction.