Area veterans with hepatitis C are being cured

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After living with hepatitis C for more than 35 years, local resident Charles Otey — along with 500 other veterans — has been cured.

Treatments have been available for hepatitis C — a virus that affects the liver — for the past 20 years, but Otey was hesitant to pursue them until recently. He, like other veterans, feared the mental health-related side effects of the treatments.

“I have friends with hepatitis C, and they took the drug, and they were saying it had side effects like headaches or feeling suicidal,” he said last week.

But after just a 12-week pill regimen, the 61-year-old veteran is free of the virus without having dealt with any side effects.

Otey and the other 500 Richmond-area veterans were the first to be treated at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. The new program is made possible largely by new drugs that have radically changed the landscape of hepatitis C treatment, and to a budget that Congress approved allowing veterans hospitals across the country to pay for the medications.

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