How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige
A reader wrote, “I have had hepatitis C since 1972. I am healthy, and I don’t have any symptoms. I suffered through interferon and nearly lost my job. Then I tried combination peginterferon and ribivarin. It was very hard on me and didn’t work. I don’t know if I should even consider the new all-oral hepatitis C treatments that are in the pipeline, the ones that are interferon/ribavirin-free. I am 68, active, swim every day. For those of us who have lived a long time with hepatitis C and are asymptomatic, is treatment even worthwhile?”
I am not in the advice-giving business, but I do have opinions. Here is what I think: First, medical treatment decisions always need to be discussed with your doctor. Although the new hepatitis C drugs are much safer and more effective than what we have offered patients in the past, treatment decisions are based on the condition of each individual patient. Assuming that this patient’s doctor is up-to-date on the new hepatitis C drugs that the FDA is expected to approve in the fall, I think age is less of a concern since these new regimens have far fewer side effects.
I understand this patient’s concern, especially having had previous experience with the earlier generations of high side effect/low response rate drugs. However, the new hepatitis C drugs couldn’t be more different. The side effects are much milder, the treatment duration is short (8 to 12 weeks), the regimen is as easy as taking pills (no more interferon), and the response rates are at an all-time high with over 90% efficacy rates.
Is hepatitis C treatment worth it at age 68? Yes! Imagine being 68 with hepatitis C; then imagine being 68 without hepatitis C. Personally, life without hepatitis C is a better prospect, especially when I look at life from the viewpoint of being 68.