Information about Effective Treatments for Hepatitis

Q: What is the most effective treatment for viral hepatitis?

A: Each of the three most common viral hepatitis forms—A, B and C—has its own treatment regimen. Hepatitis A doesn't need to be treated with drugs since it usually resolves on its own within two to six months. Acute hepatitis B does not usually need treatment.

Several drugs are approved for treating chronic hepatitis B, but an updated treatment algorithm suggests that entecavir (Baraclude), pegylated interferon, and tenofovir (Viread) should be the first-line treatments. Other medications such as lamivudine (Epivir HBV) and adefovir (Hepsera) can be used—and may be more suitable for some people—but are less ideal for most because of the development of viral resistance.

The standard treatment for chronic hepatitis C is pegylated interferon with ribavirin. Its success depends largely on which hepatitis C genotype the patient has.

Patients with genotype 2 infections have a higher likelihood of eradication and require only 24 weeks of treatment. About 40 percent with genotype 1 clear the virus with 48 weeks of therapy. Hepatitis C treatment is associated with side effects; most patients develop flu-like symptoms, anemia, and some hair loss. About one third of patients develop psychiatric symptoms like depression, which usually resolves two to four weeks after treatment ends.

Two newer classes of drugs, polymerase inhibitors and protease inhibitors, will likely increase the effectiveness of hepatitis C treatment in the future.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: H. Franklin Herlong, M.D.

Published: 30 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 07 Nov 2014