Hep B Blog

Category Archives: Hepatitis B Treatment

Diagnosed with Hepatitis B? Do You Need Treatment?

When people learn they are infected with hepatitis B, the first thing they want to know is “what can I take to get rid of this disease?” It can be complicated, and what can be even more difficult to understand is that during different stages of the disease there may be absolutely no benefit from currently available treatments.

Just diagnosed with HBV? Are you acute or chronic? 

First, if you have just been diagnosed with HBV, it is imperative that you determine if you have an acute or chronic infection. If you have an acute, or new infection, then it is important to know that very few people require any sort of treatment. Just be sure you are being monitored by your doctor, and take good care of your health and be sure to prevent transmission to others during this time.

Chronically infected, now what?

If your doctor determines you are chronically infected, then you will need additional information to determine what your next steps should be.

Remember that unless you display urgent symptoms, such as jaundice, or a bloated abdomen, or severe illness, you really can wait a few weeks, or even a few months, to see a liver specialist. Many people panic if they are unable to see a liver specialist immediately.  Relax, find a good doctor, learn what you can about hepatitis B, and take care while you wait.

How will you be evaluated?

Your liver specialist will do a complete work-up on you. He will perform a physical examination, get a complete medical history, and he will run additional blood tests to learn more about your hepatitis B status and your liver health. He may also get a baseline ultrasound or perform other diagnostic imaging procedures to gain more data so he can make a decision whether or not you would benefit from treatment at this time.  Some of the blood work may need to be repeated over a period of time before your doctor decides whether or not to move forward with treatment. Do not beg your doctor for treatment. Waiting and watching is sometimes the smartest thing to do.  Treatment is rarely an emergency. Time is on your side, so please be patient.

What can you do while you wait?

This is a good time to look at some of your personal lifestyle choices and consider some basic changes that might benefit you at this time. Avoid alcohol, and stop smoking. Focus on eating a well-balanced diet filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean meats. Avoid fast and processed foods when possible. They may contain trans fats, partially hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup and other less desirable “ingredients”. Don’t’ forget to get everyone in the household screened and vaccinated against HBV if you have not already done so.

What’s next? Tune in next time to learn about some of your blood work…

Does Your Sex Life Interfere With Organ Donation? A Hepatitis B Perspective

Giving or receiving the gift of life through organ donation is truly a gift. This week’s story – “CDC’s proposed guidelines for transplants say two sex partners is too many for top-notch organ donors ” may well jeopardize the availability of this precious gift to those in need.

For those living with HBV, this dilemma is especially disheartening.  With organ donation highly unlikely due to their HBV status, those living with HBV also face the possibility of requiring a liver transplant due to end-stage liver disease or HCC.

Organs for donation don’t come easily.  These proposed guidelines are limiting.  The question is, are these guidelines even realistic?  Dr. Harry Dorn-Arias, a transplant surgeon at the Univeristy of Virginia told MSNBC, said it best: “With the new guidelines, every college student in America will be high-risk”. Perfectly healthy, young candidates may choose to waive their decision to donate their organs because the guidelines seem so… judgmental. They might not even consider the act of donation.

And who will be out there to ensure that the now smaller subset of potential donors isn’t lying, and who will update the information annually? Will the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) be quizzing you on your sexual activities when you choose one way or the other to check the organ donor box for your license? If you’re sixteen and standing there with your mom at the DMV, are you going to take a stand and not be an organ donor because you have multiple sex partners, and mom doesn’t even know you’re having sex?  (Just went through the whole DMV process, so it’s fresh in my mind).  What if you are completely monogamous, but your partner is not? Do you have high-risk organs due to association?  And what if you are considering a life-saving, living related donation for your wife, but you’re afraid to tell her you’ve had multiple sexual partners for the last 10 years of the marriage? If you’ve been lying the last 10 years, why stop now? What if you had a very active sex life, but settled into a happy monogamous relationship, but forgot to update your organ donor card?  Although there’s a little levity thrown in here, these scenarios are not that far-fetched.

When you are in need of an organ, and you are fortunate to find a match, you have to assume there will be risks involved in the process.  Naturally you want the safest organ available, but there is not the time or the medical testing available to screen for every medical conceivable complication that might result in a failed transplant. At some point there has to be a leap of faith. Personally I would choose the “high-risk” organ from a healthy 20 year-old with 5 sex partners last-year, over no organ at all.

It’s all about risks vs. benefits.  Slashing the pool of potential donors based on the number of sexual partners is riskier than having no choice from a much smaller, reduced pool filled with many of the same unknown variables.  The donor pool isn’t necessarily safer, it’s just smaller.

Organ donation truly is a gift. If you are living a life style that you know to be high-risk, or if you knowingly have a disease that will put a recipient at risk, then do not donate.  Otherwise, carry your organ donor card with pride and check the box “yes” next time you’re at the DMV.

Hepatitis B and Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for everyone, but how might vitamin D help those living with HBV? Vitamin D is especially important for children and older adults, as it aids in the body’s absorption and regulation of calcium and phosphorus, which helps form and maintain healthy bones and teeth.  Vitamin D is also a potent immune modulator, and aids in the prevention of hypertension, and cancer. Vitamin D levels appear to play a critical role in type I and type II diabetes, glucose intolerance, and metabolic disorders.  Studies have also shown a link between low vitamin D levels and NAFLD (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), independent of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or insulin-resistance profile (for those without HBV). The lower the vitamin D level, the higher the risk for NAFLD, or fatty liver disease.  The liver plays such an integral part in digestion, regulation, storage, and removal of toxins – the list goes on.  You can’t live without it!  As a result, it seems logical that healthy levels of vitamin D would benefit those living with HBV, if adequate vitamin D levels help reduce the risk of NAFLD, metabolic syndrome, etc.

Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator.  It has been on the radar for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases for years. If you are being treated for HBV, you may want to discuss the potential benefits of adding vitamin D to your current therapy.  It has been shown to benefit hepatitis C patients undergoing treatment.  There is currently a clinical trial in Israel looking into the possible benefits of adding vitamin D supplementation to hepatitis B patients undergoing Peginterferon, or treatment with nucleotide analogs.

While researching this blog, I ran across a couple references that mention Fanconi’s Syndrome and vitamin D.  This is interesting since Fanconi’s Syndrome may be acquired as a result of HBV treatment with tenofovir.  Fanconi’s Syndrome and supplementation with vitamin D is also mentioned on the Mayo Clinic site.  The problem is there are no studies that definitively discuss the benefits of vitamin D supplementation for those living with HBV.  I am no doctor, but there seems to be a connection between vitamin D and good liver health.

Start by talking to your doctor or liver specialist about the pros and cons of considering additional vitamin D in your diet. Request that your vitamin D levels be tested so you get a snapshot of your current levels. I had my girls’ levels checked.  They were adequate, but I regretted having them tested during the summer break when they are outside more often. I wonder how this reflects on their levels in the winter when they are rarely outside?  Food for thought.

The 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH) D) blood test is used to measure serum levels of vitamin D. Normal serum levels, indicated by the Institute of Medicine (NIH), are 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) or greater.  Low levels are under 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL).  See detailed charts for age specific requirements. There are all kinds of reasons for inadequate levels of vitamin D, so it is important to follow up with your doctor if your results are out of the normal range.  You may require additional testing.

It is important to maintain a balance and use common sense when considering supplementing your diet with Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is essential, but too much of a good thing can be dangerous to your health. Be sure to keep your doctor in the loop – especially if you are currently undergoing HBV treatment.

Check out Thursday’s blog for those looking for vitamin D details and sources.

The Hepatitis B Foundation’s Hepatitis B Clinical Trials Page

Did you check out Tuesday’s Hep B Blog, “Participating in HBV Clinical Trials” for those living with Hepatitis B?  It’s time to have a more in-depth look at the HBV  trial entries that are updated monthly on The Hepatitis B Foundation’s (HBF’s) Hepatitis B Clinical Trials web page. Roughly 350 trials out of the 112,278 clinical trials maintained by ClinicalTrials.gov pertain to HBV related studies.  The ClinicalTrials.gov site is a registry of trials that located in 175 different countries.  Changes to ClinicalTrials.gov are an ongoing process.

Each month the HBF’s Hepatitis B Clinical Trials web page is updated based on a thorough review of clinicalTrials.gov registry.   Trials that are new and are recruiting are added.  Completed trials are deleted, and modifications are made based on the “last updated date” of the each trial entry. All identified trials are active and currently recruiting patients. Modifications may include anything from additional site locations added to the trial, to new contact information, or even a change in protocol.  A few international trials are in an unknown state, but remain on our page until we hear word if the trial is completed, or no longer recruiting patients.  If you are local and interested, it is worth pursing to get the current status.

The page is divided into U.S. trials, International trials, Co-Infection trials, Pediatric trials, HBV & Liver Transplantation, HBV & Liver Cancer, and HBV Reactivation and Lymphoma. Some of these categories are more recent and were added to address other areas for those living with HBV.

Recently HBF has made an effort to include trials, within the country of origin for the trial, that not only treat HBV, but also monitor patients.  These long term studies may use new, experimental techniques to monitor HBV patients, or those at high risk for HCC.  There are also opportunities to participate in long-term studies that monitor patients and look for common factors, trends etc. among those living with HBV.  It’s another opportunity to meet with  cutting-edge liver specialists, and possibly even contribute by helping researchers determine factors that may cause HBV disease to activate, or worsen, or hopefully improve.

So have a seat at your computer and review HBF’s Hepatitis B Clinical Trials web page, or go to the individual section that interests you.  The trials listed contain the original title, the purpose, or basic description of the trial.  Due to logistics, the trial site is very important, which is why all entries contain the countries included in the site unless they are too great to list. Then they are listed as “international“. Contact information is also maintained and updated, with a link to email and phone contact info.  Most importantly is the NCT number (NCT followed by an 8 digit identifier), or ClinicalTrials identifier, which is how all trials are referenced in the ClinicalTrials.gov registry. By clicking on the NCT#, you will be linked to the trial of interest directly within ClinicalTrials.gov, where you can investigate the details of the trial and see if it is of interest, and whether or not you meet the criterion for participation.

Give it some thought and think about whether an HBV clinical trial is an option for you.  Discuss your ideas with your liver specialist, and confer with others in HBV support groups that may have experience with a drug, or past clinical trial experience.  Feel free to contact HBF with any questions you might have regarding clinical trials.

If you think of a way to make our clinical trials page more user-friendly, or trial categories that might be missing, be sure to leave a comment and let me know.  And if you happen to find an HBV trial that is recruiting, but is not listed, please be sure to let us know. HBF is here to help!

Participating in HBV Clinical Trials

Have you considered participating in hepatitis B clinical trial?   A clinical trial can be a great opportunity to take advantage of the latest advancements in HBV treatment and monitoring, typically without expense to the patient.  It can open doors and provide an opportunity to interact with liver specialists on the leading edge of treating HBV.  There are numerous clinical trials for hepatitis B offered all around the world, from adult to pediatric patient populations.

There are three testing phases that drugs go through before they are approved for use for by the FDA.  A fourth phase examines long-term use.  This is a rigorous process, costs hundreds of millions of dollars and takes 12-15 years before a drug is finally approved. Check out the animated Drug Discovery Time Line to get a better appreciation for the process.

A major advantage of participating in a clinical trial is that expensive treating medications, clinical monitoring, and lab work are typically provided without expense to the patient, and the patient is monitored throughout the process by experienced, participating liver specialists.

The next thing to consider is whether or not you are eligible for a particular trial.  There are various inclusion/exclusion criterion.  Some trials or studies are looking for patients that are treatment naïve, (patients who have not taken medications for HBV) while others are looking for patients that are treatment experienced, (patients who have taken particular medications for HBV) but may have failed on one treatment protocol, and might need “rescue therapy,” such as an antiviral to replace a previous antiviral where a resistance to the drug has occurred based on a viral mutation.  It varies with trial.

Other studies may be looking for candidates based on HBe status (positive or negative), degree of liver damage, or ALT or HBV DNA levels over a particular time period. You must first qualify before you consider participation in a trial or study, so be sure to check the qualifying criterion, and discuss with your doctor.

Naturally, each candidate will need to weigh the risks versus the benefits of receiving an experimental drug. Discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. Do you really need treatment for your HBV at this time? What are the possible short and long term side effects? Do you think you can manage them? You know your body best. What about the logistics?  Is there a need for frequent lab work?  Does it need to be done on site, or can blood be drawn at a local lab?  What happens when the trial is complete?  This is especially important when considering antivirals. Will you need to remain on the medication when the trial is complete?  Will you be financially responsible, and if so can you afford it?  Will participating in a trial exclude you from future trials?  What about resistance and cross resistance to future drugs? These are a few of the questions for which you need to think long and hard, and of course discuss them with your liver doctor and the participating specialist.

It also doesn’t hurt to ask other patients on HBV internet support groups.  You might well find someone with personal experience with the drug, keeping in mind that everyone responds somewhat uniquely to the same drug therapy. I have found these forums extremely helpful when considering a new drug.

The Hepatitis B Foundation is committed to maintaining monthly, updated clinical trial data available to friends living with HBV on our website.  We do much of the up-front work for you by sorting through the hundreds of trials available via clinicalTrials.gov, a registry of clinical trials.  We divide the data into unique treating situations that might benefit various patients, such as clinical trials for patients that live in the U.S. or internationally pediatrics, coinfected, candidates for liver transplantation, patients struggling with HBV related hepatocellular carcinoma, and HBV reactivation and lymphoma.  Most trials relate to the treatment of HBV, while some are observational studies, long term studies where patients are monitored over time.  Some relate back to treatment studies – durability of treatment or long term effects, while others study patients with HBV, and identifying factors that may cause the disease to activate or worsen, and are monitored via annual or bi-annual blood work and annual visits.  It varies with the trial.

So if you have HBV, consider your status. If you are a candidate for treatment, consider existing, approved treatments vs. participation in an HBV clinical trial. It’s up to you and your doctor to determine if a clinical trial is a good fit.

 

Off to College With Hepatitis B

Are you ready to head off to college?  Are you concerned about your HBV status?  Here are a few things to consider…

If you live in the U.S. your roomate(s) will most likely be vaccinated for hepatitis B, so you shouldn’t need to worry about disclosure.  Later on in your relationship you can decide whether or not you want to disclose your HBV status to your roommate, other friends, or SOs.  For now it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.  Once the info is out, you cannot take it back.

If you are sexually active you will want to consider how you will handle these relationships.  HBV is spread through vaginal or anal sex so you want to be sure to practice safe sex for the benefit of both you and your partner.  Please use a condom to ensure there is no transmission of STDs and other infectious diseases.  There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, but not for HCV and HIV.  If you are living with HBV, you are well aware that you do not want an HBV coinfection with either HCV or HIV.  Coinfections are more complicated and more difficult to treat and manage.  Play it safe and use a condom.

It’s great to be on your own at college.  Days and nights learning, studying and preparing for a bright future, branching out on your own… away from mom and dad.  Quite often it’s time for a little experimentation, a little craziness, or just plain fun.

It’s a time to interact with lots of different kinds of people.  Sometimes you have control over these interactions and sometimes you don’t.  You can’t control all of these things, but you can control parts of your own little environment.

Get yourself a bag for your personal toiletries.  Whether you’re using bathroom and shower facilities on the dorm floor, living in a quad, or sharing an apartment with roommates, you’ll want to be sure to keep your personal items in a separate bag and out of sight of floor mates, roommates and visitors.

We all know that HBV and other infectious agents are transmitted via contaminated bodily fluids – especially blood, semen and vaginal fluids.  Store your razor inside your bag, and be sure you do NOT leave it in the shower stall.  Razors are an effective transmission vehicle for infectious disease like HBV or even HCV and HIV.  If you leave your razor in the shower, you cannot assume that someone else has not used it.  Throw it away and start fresh.

This goes for nail accessories like clippers, cuticle cutters or even files.  Keep them in your bag and keep them out of sight from roommates and other visitors.  Few people think twice about picking up a pair of nail clippers or a nail file.

Communal items such as soap should be liquid soap and not bar soap.  Don’t share any body jewelry including pierced earrings.

Don’t forget about your toothbrush.  I can still remember a friend mentioning that he had borrowed my toothbrush, after visiting.  Unfortunately he mentioned it after I had already brushed my teeth.  Disgusting!  Do you really want anyone using your toothbrush??  After the fact, it’s too late to do anything about it.  You need to be proactive to make sure these little mishaps don’t occur.  Put your personal items away and out of sight.

Then there are the visitors…  Most likely you won’t have control of everyone in and out of your room or apartment.  My college roommate and her boyfriend loved that I was organized and prepared for all scenarios.  They were constantly “borrowing” my things.  I wish I had the courage to tell my roommate’s boyfriend that I would prefer he wash my pillowcase after he borrowed my pillow, along with all of the other things he helped himself to without asking.  Keep your personal items separate, and let your roommate know that your boundaries are to be respected. Establish these boundaries up front!

Perhaps you’re worried about what others might think of your toiletries bag, or that you like your personal things respected.  Don’t tell them you’ve got HBV.  Just laugh and tell them you’re a “germaphobe”. By keeping personal items out of view and sequestered in your own bag, everyone is protected.

Be sure to read the follow-on blog: Cleaning up and Staying Safe at College. 

Got Hepatitis B? Share Your Favorite Liver Specialist with the HBV Community

Do you have a favorite liver specialist that you’d like to share with the Hepatitis B Foundation and friends living with HBV?  Friends with HBV live all over the globe, and we are interested in liver specialists with Hepatitis B treating experience from all over.  Pediatric patients are a special sub-population with special treating needs, too.  We’d love to hear from all of you!  Here’s what we’re looking for…

The Hepatitis B Foundation maintains a database of liver specialists that have experience treating patients with HBV.  Based on your recommendations, we would love to extend an invitation to your liver specialist to participate in our directory of liver specialists.  If your liver specialist replies, we will add his/her name to the list.

We’ve had some wonderful, new HBV friends on facebook from Africa and other continents, and we would encourage all of you to send us your liver specialist’s contact information.  Our international database is a little sparse, so we really need your input!  This would also include parents of children with HBV that are living abroad.  So, if you’ve got experience with a treating specialist that you’d like to share, you can be sure others will benefit from your advice.

Here is what the Hepatitis B Foundation needs to know:

  • Residing country
  • Adult or pediatric specialist
  • Liver specialist’s name and contact information  – including name, address, telephone number and email address (if available)
  • Anything else you’d like to share!

Email this important information to directory@hepb.org .  Please keep in mind that the information you provide is offered as a courtesy to others in the HBV community.  Your name will not be associated, and the addition of your physician does not make you responsible in any way.  This is not a physician referral service, but rather an opportunity for those living with HBV to share resources.  (Please note the disclaimer.)

Thanks to all who participate.  The entire HBV community benefits from your input!

 

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Hepatitis B Foundation!

Hepatitis B Foundation 20th Anniversary Gala

 

Join the Hepatitis B Foundation with this short, fun, YouTube video with great snapshots and music as the Hepatitis B Foundation  celebrates its 20th Anniversary.  The Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national non-profit organization solely dedicated to the global problem of Hepatitis B. 

If you want to know more about HBF, check out our mission and story.  We’ve had some great accomplishments over the last year, so take a moment and review our  2010 annual report, and see what contributions HBF has made to hepatitis B research, outreach, and advocacy.