Hepatitis C has long been a disease for which humanity had no effective cure. The well-known treatment standard with interferon was only successful in around 50% of cases. In 2013, a new drug under the trade name Sovaldi was introduced to the US market. With above 95% success rate the new drug changed the game and transformed Hepatitis C into an easily treatable liver disease.
What is more, Gilead added 90 mg of ledipasvir, a NS5A inhibitor, to existing 400 mg sofosbuvir formulation in Sovaldi. The newly created drug is named Harvoni and it is currently the most successful Hepatitis C treatment available.
Harvoni side effects
No drug is without side effect and even Harvoni is not an exception. The most frequent ones are headaches (20%) and fatigue (18%), followed by diarrhea and nausea. All these side effects were discovered during clinical trials and patients should expect some of them during the standard 12-week treatment.
However, more and more Hepatitis C patients are experiencing weight gain as a side effect of the treatment. In some cases, patients put up no less than 30 pounds in as little as 12 weeks. Is the new treatment stimulating weight gain?
Why are Hepatitis C patients gaining weight?
The treatment is most probably not a direct cause for weight gain. Nonetheless, there are two factors that can influence body mass increase during the 12-week regimen:
- Headaches and fatigue decrease physical activity
- Immune system is burning muscle tissue to fight off the disease
Normal physical activity is very important when it comes to weight maintenance. Even simple tasks such as cleaning or walking through the mall burn calories and little by little these calories add up. However, when being treated for Hepatitis C, headaches and fatigue usually prevent patients from performing those tasks. On the other hand, people on Harvoni usually find less time and motivation to prepare healthy meals. When suffering from a headache, taking snacks out of the fridge is much easier than making a healthy homemade meal. This adds to the calories being consumed and contributes to weight gain.
Nonetheless, consuming food is vital for fighting off the disease. While on treatment, the immune system is in hyper-drive and is in need of additional energy to construct antibodies against Hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are created out of proteins. This is why it is very important to consume a sufficient amount of protein while on treatment. Otherwise, the body in need of protein will start burning off valuable muscle mass in order to obtain the necessary building block for the immune system.
Both effects add up and influence weight gain. The important thing to know is that patients on treatment must eat in order to keep their immune system healthy. It is true that this will, in turn, increase their body weight. The primary focus of the treatment is still to cure Hepatitis C.
Get energy from fat tissue
The most brilliant way of getting the energy to fuel your immune system is by burning of excess fat. Most of us have fat on the stomach and thighs. This fat can be used to support our immune system. The added benefit is that you will not gain weight on Harvoni treatment. Not only this, many people report losing weight when being on a right fat burning program.