Getting ready for hepatitis C treatment

Key points

  • Before a person starts treatment, it can be helpful to support them to set up a plan for treatment.
  • Support will be different for every person. It may include a plan for taking treatment every day as prescribed by the healthcare provider, identifying supportive people and other helpful resources, setting up a plan for birth control during treatment and connecting the person to programs that cover the cost of hepatitis C treatment.

Hepatitis C treatment usually involves taking one to three pills once a day for eight or 12 weeks, with few side effects. Some people find it simple to integrate treatment into their daily routine. Others may want support to get ready to start and stay on treatment. Here are a few ways to help a person prepare for treatment and stay on track.

Plan for taking hepatitis C treatment

Treatment usually means taking one to three pills once a day for eight or 12 weeks. Some people may have to take their pills twice per day, and some people may be on treatment for up to 16 weeks. To give treatment the highest chance of curing hepatitis C, it is important that the pills are taken every day for the entire length of treatment, as they were prescribed by the healthcare provider. This is called adherence.

Part of getting ready for treatment is ensuring a person has the supports they need to adhere to treatment. It can be helpful to encourage a person about to start treatment to make a plan to stay on top of the treatment regimen. This may include the following suggestions:

  • Choosing a convenient time to take the pills every day, such as taking pills at the same time as daily activities like brushing teeth or eating dinner.
  • Doing a “dry run” before starting treatment to identify potential barriers to adherence to treatment. This could mean practising the treatment routine using candies or mints.
  • Getting a written copy of the treatment plan. This should include a simple-to-follow list of the medications, when to take them and how much to take.
  • Using timers or alarms for a daily reminder to take pills.
  • Using a tool to keep track of the pills, such as a blister pack, daily dosage pill container, app or diary.
  • If available, getting daily or weekly dispensing of treatment to help keep track of pills.
  • Identifying a support network of family members, friends, service providers and other supportive people who can help with adherence.
  • Talking with other people who have been through or are going through treatment for hepatitis C.

For information on supporting people who are using street drugs while they on hepatitis C treatment, see Supporting people on hepatitis C treatment who are using drugs and alcohol.

Mental health, holistic well-being and other supports

Support will be different for every person. Before starting treatment, everyone should be encouraged to talk about their situation with a healthcare provider or support worker they trust. Some people may want support for their mental health or holistic well-being before, during or after treatment.

A person’s mental health or holistic well-being can be supported in these ways:

  • A person can have more frequent check-ins with healthcare providers or support workers.
  • A person can be encouraged to reach out to family and friends or to meet with a supportive person regularly.
  • A person can be encouraged to attend a regular group with peers who have hepatitis C and are going through treatment, if available. If a person has access to the Internet, they can also find hepatitis C support groups online.

Access to a multidisciplinary team made up of nurses, doctors, mental health workers, social workers, outreach workers and people with lived experience of hepatitis C can prevent mental health issues from being a barrier to getting through treatment.

Supports may also include helping a person apply for income assistance or housing. Having a safe place to stay can make it easier for a person to keep track of their pills and adhere to treatment.

Some people may need help with planning so they can access food or meals on a regular basis. This may be especially important if their medication should be taken with food.

Plan for birth control during treatment

If pregnancy is possible, birth control should be used during treatment. A person may want support to create a plan for birth control.

Cost of treatment

For most people, the cost of hepatitis C treatment is covered through public health insurance plans (provincial, territorial or federal). For others, a private insurance plan (usually through work) should cover the cost of treatment. Drug companies also have programs that help a person with paperwork related to drug coverage and can pay a deductible. Most people don’t have to pay out of pocket for treatment.

For information on options to cover the cost of hepatitis C medications, see Hepatitis C treatment coverage.

Resources for service providers

Resources for clients

Revised 2020.