Historic achievement for veterans in the fight against hepatitis C By Thomas J. Berger, Ph.D

Congress made headlines last month by approving a funding measure to avert the looming government shutdown. But the measure doesn’t just keep federal agencies funded until next fall. Buried within the 2000-plus page bill is a truly historic development for veterans battling the nation’s deadliest blood-borne disease.

Veterans, especially those of my era who served in and around Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, experience hepatitis C infection rates that are twice as high as our civilian counterparts. Yet previously, too many people who tested positive for hepatitis C preferred to forego treatment and risk cirrhosis, hepatic cancer, liver damage, and/or organ failure, rather than undergo the harsh and largely ineffective regimen of chemotherapy required to attempt to rid their bodies of the virus. 

Fortunately, an unprecedented advancement in the treatment of hepatitis C has brought new hope to those living with this potentially fatal virus. Less than two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved several new treatments with cure rates of up to 98 percent, and few – if any – side effects.

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