Viral hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. There are three viruses responsible for most cases of the disease: hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A is typically caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B and C usually occur when someone comes in contact with infected bodily fluids, such as blood. The severity of hepatitis can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
In 2016, there were an estimated 2.4 million people living with hepatitis C, one of the more severe forms of the disease, in the United States. A hepatitis C infection can be particularly serious for older adults, since many don’t seek treatment until the condition is in advanced stages. What’s more, hepatitis C is considered harder to treat for older people who have lived with the condition for a long time compared to younger people are. Treatment is often unsuccessful, too, because many of the common treatment options aren’t easy for older adults to tolerate or may no longer be effective as our body changes with age.
Thankfully, newer treatments known as interferon-free direct-acting antivirals offer a promising approach to addressing hepatitis C. These medications offer cure rates of more than 90 percent in clinical trials and in real life, but they haven’t been studied extensively for older adults. A team of researchers studied this issue and published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The researchers examined how well people older than 65 tolerated interferon-free direct-acting antivirals compared with younger patients. Continue reading