A Statement from Dr. Koop
Some years have passed since the initial information on HCV was entered here. We are happy to provide an update. This has been a considerable effort , because of the dramatic advances in our knowledge in so many aspects.
The number of new HCV cases may slowly come down. However, for the decades to come, we will face tremendous challenges with respect to those who are infected and who may have very advanced disease or developed hepatocellular carcinoma.
The therapeutic options for HCV have dramatically improved. We can now cure the disease in some 40-80% of patients. However, side-effects preclude treatment in too many. Current therapies are still interferon based (associated with severe side effects), but alternatives are rapidly emerging and subject of clinical trials worldwide. They may provide much better tolerable therapy in a decade or less.
As your former surgeon-general with an eye on preventative opportunities, I wanted to draw attention to a few aspects than should be subject of awareness campaigns:
- Excessive use of alcohol in HCV infected individuals can dramatically increase the risk of a disastrous outcome (cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma): Too many people remain clueless about this.
- Obesity, a risk factor for many diseases is equally disastrous for the outcome of HCV infection.
- Awareness of the risk factors for acquisition of HCV that were present in the life of many patients 20-50 years ago (drugs, transfusions) remains crucial for recognition of disease at a curable stage.
- There is reason to be optimistic about treatment: Cure is increasingly feasible.
I hope this info on HCV will serve all in this country and beyond.
C. Everett Koop, MD