Hepatitis C (Hep C) is an inflammatory liver disorder transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. 71 million people worldwide and up to 3.9 million Americans have Hep C. Symptoms of the infection when it’s first contracted may occur anywhere from 2-12 weeks after it enters the bloodstream, but not everyone experiences symptoms. 15% of those exposed will clear the infection naturally, but the other 85% will go on to develop chronic Hep C. For these reasons, everyone is encouraged to get tested. Complications from Hep C include scarring of the liver, liver cancer, and liver failure, but treatment can cure Hep C through antiviral medications.
These behaviors can prevent the spread of Hep C:
- Never sharing needles, nasal straws, diabetic supplies, lancing supplies, injecting supplies
- Only obtaining tattoos and piercings from licensed, reputable professionals operating equipment sterilized by autoclave
Hep C Program Growth at CHAS Health
Until 2011, the standard therapy for Hep C was injectable Interferon plus Ribavirin. Cure rates were low and side effects were severe. At this time, CHAS Health providers Dr. Ethan Angell, Dr. Mirko Zugec, and Leticia McCulley, PA-C were some of the only providers in the community other than GI specialists treating Hep C. Dr. Emily Colgate joined the Hep C program in 2016.
The majority of patients – even those with liver cirrhosis – can be effectively treated for Hep C in the primary care setting. In 2020, CHAS Health clinical pharmacists began training to take a primary role in the treatment of Hep C. Four are now trained and available to do assist incoming Hep C patients Monday-Friday at Maple and Valley Clinics. By integrating pharmacists into the practice, we hope to minimize the time and number of visits it takes to get a patient treated for Hep C.
Little known facts about the CHAS Health Hep C Program:
- Anyone with Hep C can come to CHAS Health and see a Hep C program provider without having to establish primary care
- Medications most commonly used today only require once a day dosing for 8-12 weeks. Historically, medication treatment was more complicated, took 6 months, and had very unpleasant side effects
- Our pharmacy team can assist with navigating insurance for Hep C medications
- Whether or not a patient has prescription insurance coverage, our 340b and sliding fee programs may be able to help offset medication costs
- With current prescription treatments, most patients can be cured of Hep C in 2-6 months with minimal side effects!
Hep C Program Testimonial
When interviewed about his CHAS Health experience, patient John L. got emotional. Tearfully, he said, “CHAS really went to bat for me.” In 2011, John said CHAS Health wouldn’t give up and got him a scholarship to pay for his very expensive Hep C medication. The side effects were brutal, but John said CHAS Health stuck by him and 6 months later, he was cured. Today, John is still a CHAS Health patient; sober, no longer overweight, mobile, a Pathways to Wellness mentor, off of insulin, and Hep C free. John’s story sheds light on how with persistence and care, a dedicated patient and CHAS Health team really can change lives for the better.