Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin

This has been the main treatment for Hepatitis C for 10 years.


What is it and who is it for?

Pegylated interferon and Ribavirin are prescribed for all genotypes of Hepatitis C infection. Interferon is a chemical which your body produces naturally to fight off infection. It is given as an injection once per week and works to boost your body's natural immune response and stop the virus from multiplying.

Ribavirin is an oral medication of a daily pill. It works to prevent the virus from reproducing.

However, in some cases people can have an intolerance to interferon which means they won't be able to take it.


How long does treatment take?

Treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin usually takes either 24 or 48 weeks depending on your genotype. Genotype 1 and 4 infection usually requires 48 weeks of treatment whilst genotypes 2 and 3 usually only require 24 weeks.


Are there any side effects?

Side effects from taking interferon injections can be mild to severe.

Nearly everyone on interferon treatment will have some degree of flu-like symptoms such as: fatigue, fever, myalgia (muscle pain), rigors (stiffness), arthralgia (joint pain) and headache.

Less common side effects that you may have include: anaemia, depression, skin reactions, thyroid dysfunction, weight loss, retinopathy (damage to the retina), hair loss and dyspnoea (shortness of breath).  All of these side effects tend to become less severe after the first month of drug therapy and are treatable.

Other reported side effects include: insomnia, poor concentration, nausea and temporary post-treatment withdrawal symptoms.

If you are being treated with interferon and ribavirin you may wish to access support services to help you through the treatment. You may also wish to try complementary therapies which some people find helps them.


Hepatitis C Scotland

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