Hope and Healing
UPMC is leading the way with new treatment options for hepatitis C.
Decades after receiving a childhood blood transfusion, Chris Sosinski was shocked to learn he had the hepatitis C virus, which had led to cirrhosis and the prospect of a liver transplant.
Today, Chris remains hepatitis C negative, thanks to a new direct-acting antiviral therapy he received at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases last year. Months after ending treatment in October, his viral load remains at zero.
“That means it’s gone,” says Chris, 49, of Jeannette. “No more medicine and — if I take care of myself — no transplant.”
Baby Boomers Beware
Chris is one of a growing number of baby boomers diagnosed with hepatitis C, a problem so serious that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for the virus. The CDC estimates that more than 75 percent of the nation’s 3 million adults currently living with hepatitis C are baby boomers — and most don’t know they’re infected.
“Hepatitis C is a silent disease; most people have no symptoms,” says Kapil Chopra, MD, director, UPMC Center for Liver Diseases. “But if diagnosed early, it can be cured or managed successfully before it can develop into cirrhosis or liver cancer.”
A New Era of Treatment
Thankfully for Chris and other hepatitis C patients, two drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 ushered in a new era of treatment, delivering improved cure rates and shorter treatment time for the most prevalent — and hardest to treat — strain of the virus. Playing a critical role was the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases, where specialists have been at the forefront in the evaluation and clinical trials of promising new therapies.
Hundreds of UPMC patients took part in groundbreaking clinical trials for those new drugs. (See our Clinical Trials Can Change Lives article to learn about other clinical trials.) Today, even more are participating in clinical trials of new therapies at UPMC with the potential for even better results in fighting chronic hepatitis C infections.
“These are exciting times. Over the next few years, we expect to have several new options that will eradicate the hepatitis C virus in most patients without side effects,” says Dr. Chopra. “It’s a new era of treatment and hope for our patients.”
A Leading Resource for Complex Care
Treating and managing hepatitis C can be complex for both patients and health care providers. In the tri-state area, UPMC is the leading provider of comprehensive and advanced specialty care for patients with the virus.
“Our multidisciplinary specialists are involved in researching and evaluating new treatments. They bring a unique perspective for managing these complex therapies,” explains Dr. Chopra.
These specialists work together to assess patients, select appropriate antiviral therapies, educate patients, monitor for adverse effects and drug interactions, and provide support for patients and family members. “They are familiar with the latest, cutting-edge therapies and developing new ones,” adds Dr. Chopra.
For those patients who don’t respond to treatment and are experiencing liver failure, the program also provides seamless transition to UPMC’s internationally renowned transplant program.
For more information about treatments for hepatitis C, contact the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases at 1-800-447-1651.