BIG SPRING, TX (KWES) - Hepatitis C infections have increased in the US according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease falls heavily on baby boomers and could lead to liver failure, cancer and even death. Fortunately, The West Texas VA Health Care System in Big Spring is helping veterans infected with the disease fight back and so far, it's working.
The clinic has been offering new treatments to fight Hep C since May of last year. Now many veterans are walking out with a peace of mind.
"At this point, we're at a 97% screen rate where we've assessed patients in our system that test positive for Hep C," said Doctor Larry Thompson, VA Associate Chief of Staff. "We have treated or in-treatment 260 patients. At this location, 120 patients will not go on to have liver failure or cancer."
The VA combined two concentrations, Doctor of Pharmacies and Infectious Diseases based in Temple, Texas. By doing this, veterans' treatment plans were made faster.
"We had to do it differently here because in West Texas, there's not a lot of infectious disease specialists available to us," said Thompson.
In the past, their older treatments led to negative side effects for some patients. But with the new therapies, each is targeted toward certain types of Hep C to make treatments more successful. Doctors suggest for those afraid of trying the new medications, to take the chance. It could be a difference of fighting a long battle or getting cured faster.
"There's not that many times in history we have come up with medications that cure major disease," said Thompson. "The new therapies don't have the same side effects like they used to. It's well worth trying because we can eliminate the disease, we have a very high success rate. Until then, we will push it down to the lowest level possible."
Congress provided funding for the VA which has allowed them to assist veterans with Hep C. The new treatments take about 8-12 weeks. After waiting 12 weeks, veterans find out whether they're cured or not. Since the new treatments have been offered in Big Spring, its provided patient convenience and veterans don't have to travel long distances to see a infectious disease specialist anymore.