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What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Interferon for Hepatitis B?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated May 17, 2024
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The primary advantage to using interferon for hepatitis B is the relatively high response rate among patients. Treatment itself is generally simple and consists of a regular schedule of injections. Taking interferon for hepatitis B is not without its cons, however, as the treatment has been found to have numerous physical side effects. Interferon therapy is also expensive; in addition to the injections, it requires constant monitoring of the patient's blood for any positive or negative responses to the treatment. The less-than 50-percent success rate and risk of harmful side effects might be unappealing to individuals with limited resources.

In many individuals, a hepatitis B infection is considered acute and can be cleared from their systems without treatment at all. Patients who require interferon for hepatitis B treatment account for less than 1 percent of all cases. In the event that the infection is chronic, treatment becomes necessary to prevent serious damage to the liver, which, in turn, can endanger the patient's life.

Interferon is a naturally-occurring substance in the human body that plays a vital role in defending the system from viral attacks, including those caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B treatment normally involves interferon Alpha-2B, but can also include Alpha-2A. Injecting interferon can help improve the patient's ability to naturally fight hepatitis B by stifling the ability of the virus to replicate.

Using interferon for hepatitis B has been found to favorably affect those with the disease. Around 45 percent of patients who undergo weekly treatments for four to six months report alleviated symptoms: the nausea, body pains, vomiting and other signs associated with the disease are significantly reduced. Roughly 35 percent of patients will report long-term responsiveness to the treatment, while about 20 to 25 percent of patients respond favorably enough to the treatment that the virus is completely eradicated from their systems. The success rate of using interferon for hepatitis B varies according to the patient's genetic structure and that of the hepatitis B virus itself.

Elevated levels of interferon in some individuals lead to flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and fever. Patients have also reported experiencing body pain, insomnia, and dry mouth. Other possible side effects of using interferon for hepatitis B include increased irritability, impaired mental faculties, and even the development of hyperthyroidism. As such, alternative hepatitis treatments are recommended for individuals who have a history of health problems in the heart or nervous system.

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