Harvoni®, widely known as an effective medication to treat Hepatitis C, has been approved in many regions of the globe to provide relief to patients of Hepatitis C; a serious infection of liver. The medication is a combination of two drugs- ledipasvir and sofosbuvir- that have been mixed together into a single pill.
Patients of Hepatitis C are usually recommended to take a pill of Harvoni® everyday for an average of 12 weeks. Although, the drug has been found effective against the infection in many medical trials, it comes with some side-effects that could be noticed in a few patients.
Some general side-effects of Harvoni® are:
Working of Harvoni®
Medical experts describe Hepatitis C as an infection where virus attacks human liver and poses damage. This virus is so harmful it can replicate itself and make several replicas of it. For many years, doctors treated the infection with painful procedures that also included injection. These treatments had low success rates and were with several side-effects. After working for a long time on the disease’s treatment, researchers found Harvoni® which showed promising results in medical trials.
Today, Harvoni® is known as a direct-acting antiviral, or DAA medication. It works against the Hepatitis C virus by stopping it from making replicas. Out of two drugs used to make Harvoni®, sofosbuvir is a polymerase inhibitor that targets the genetic material of the virus and hinders the virus’ copies. The other drug, ledipasvir, is known as NS5A inhibitor and completes the virus’ life in the human liver.
Although by getting treatment like Harvoni®, one could get rid of the infection, there are still some chances that the patient will develop the infection again.
How to use Harvoni®?
Although Harvoni® is an effective treatment against Hepatitis C, it is necessary to take in only after recommendations from an expert on the disease. As suggested by the doctor, the pill could be taken once in a day for an average of around 12 weeks. The treatment time could be increased or decreased depending on the patient’s condition. Hepatitis patient without any severe liver damage who has never received treatment for the disease could take Harvoni® for eight to 12 weeks after getting suggestions by an expert. Those patients who didn’t receive Hep C treatments in the past, but are with cirrhosis have to take the medication for at least 12 weeks. There are several other clauses that are considered by a doctor of Hepatitis C while treating the patient and recommending the medicine.
In addition, Hepatitis C patients should follow the guidelines suggested by the doctor to make treatment work. Harvoni® is going to benefit only if the medication is taken in the right amount and at the right time. Patients should not skip their medication, unless they are not going to get healed on time.
Skipped medication – Harvoni doses? Here’s what to do
There should be excuse to skip the Hepatitis C medication as the consequences will not be favorable in that case. But there is still a ray of home in case someone forgets to take Harvoni® and remembers that within 18 hours. They should take it as soon as possible.
In case the time is over 18 hours, don’t take two doses at one time. Wait for the time of next dose, and take just one pill. If it happens more than one time, talk to your Hepatitis C doctor and ask what should be done to continue the treatment.
How effective Harvoni® is?
A number of studies have already declared Harvoni® as one of the best medications to treat Hepatitis C, and patients taking the drug are also satisfied with the treatment. It has also been found cure rate of Harvoni® for people with genotype 1 is more than 90%.
Things to remember while taking Harvoni®
Mothers with Hepatitis C who have infants should not breastfeed their children if they are treating their disease with Harvoni®.
Some patients take Harvoni® with the combination of drug amiodarone. These patients are with irregular heartbeat. People taking this unique combination may also experience slow heart rate. Generally, people are advised not to take this drug with Harvoni®.
What if Hepatitis C patients also have Hepatitis B?
There are chances that people with Hepatitis C infection could also have Hepatitis B. To ensure this, Hepatitis C patients will be treated for Hepatitis B before beginning DAA medications, as per a report of the USFDA.
According to experts, if someone with Hepatitis C who also has Hepatitis B starts treatment for the infection and neglect Hepatitis B, there is possibility that DAA medications will reactive Hepatitis B. So, it is necessary to consult doctor before starting medications for Hepatitis C.
When to have special recommendations?
It is necessary for Hepatitis C patients to talk to their doctor, in case of:
- Hepatitis B
- Severe liver problem
- kidney impairment
What if Hepatitis C patient has HIV?
Researchers are continuously conducting medical trials to know what to do if Hepatitis C patients also have HIV. In a recent trial which has around four dozen individual, researchers found that Harvoni® cured around 98% of the participants. These individuals were asked to take Harvoni® for 12 weeks.
Avoid Taking Other Drugs With Harvoni®
If you are going to begin your treatment for Hepatitis C with Harvoni®, it is important that you inform your doctor about any other medication including prescription and non-prescription drugs that you are taking. This is a vital factor as taking one medication along with another may lead to drug interaction, causing further complications. When other drugs interact with Harvoni®, it can affect the absorption or effect of these drugs on the body, leading to either an increase or decrease in the level of one or both the drugs in the body. Thus, the effectiveness of these drugs may hamper because of unregulated use.
Though these drugs may broadly include all herbs, street drugs, supplements, and so on, some particular examples of them include: HIV medication such as combination of tipranavir and ritonavir, Stribild; Tuberculosis medication including rifampin; medication for treating irregular heartbeat- amiodarone; anti-seizure medication including phenobarbital, carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), and oxcarbazepine (Trileptal); medication for lowering cholesterol including rosuvastatin; medicinal herbs such as St. John’s wort; or even some drugs for Hepatitis C such as simeprevir. Additionally, antacids, medicines for treating ulcers, heartburn, or indigestion (nizatidine, esomeprazole, pantoprazole, etc) and HIV drugs (tenofovir with darunavir or atazanavir), and so on may lead to some major drug interactions and should thus be avoided.
It is thus advised to duly keep your doctor or pharmacist informed about any other condition that you are suffering from and any additional medication that you are taking to avoid any complications while starting your treatment with Harvoni®. It is also advised to consult a single pharmacist for all your medications to avoid complexity.
Resistance to drug
Some patients may face another complication while taking Harvoni® wherein the Hepatitis C virus resists the drug in the body, leading to a decrease in effectiveness of the drug. This resistance is the result of the mutilation or change of the virus during its replication process. Though this is a rare occurrence, people should still ensure that they follow the prescription of medicines exactly as prescribed by the doctor to avoid such complication or ineffectiveness of the drug.
Availability of Harvoni®
Gilead Sciences, a leading pharmaceutical company that produces Harvoni®, provides low-cost Harvoni® through various pharmacies. Health Canada has also approved the medication provided by them and thus can be found in the pharmacies of Canada. Your doctor can guide you about the pharmacies that provide Harvoni®.