Opioids, Hep C, and Kids


SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Another troubling development in the opioid epidemic: the number of new Hepatitis C cases has nearly doubled among pregnant women in the U.S. in recent years. That’s affecting some unintended victims: babies, in utero. “Hep C” can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. But a combination drug is helping the littlest victims fight back.

Eleven-year-old Talon Hendrickson-Zimmerman plays without a care these days, since his Hepatitis C is gone. He no longer has to pack gloves in case he gets hurt

“If they needed to help me, they would have to wear them, because they couldn’t touch my blood cause I had Hepatitis C,” Hendrickson-Zimmerman told Ivanhoe.

Talon got Hepatitis C from his birth mom, who used intravenous drugs. He was diagnosed at two. His first treatment, Interferon, made him terribly sick. Last year he entered a clinical trial for Harvoni, made of two anti-viral drugs. Talon’s adoptive mom, Lisa Mills, says his viral load dropped from 1.2 million to 20 in a week. Then his doctor brought this news …

“When she came in to the room and told us after two weeks on this medication, he is cured, I mean you just literally cried. We cried,” Mills explained.

Karen Murray MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs, Chief, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, and Seattle Children’s Hospital at Seattle Children’s Hospital says Harvoni was approved for adults and older kids. As soon as she could, she got Talon in a trial for younger children. He took two pills a day for three months with no side effects.

Doctor Murray stated, “The efficacy of the treatment is truly astounding.  Ninety-eight plus percent in his age group.” (Read Full Interview)

Talon will be monitored for five years.

Mills continued, “He doesn’t have to worry about going through liver transplants, infecting other people. He can play basketball, he can have a nosebleed.”

Just like a normal kid.

Because of responses like Talon’s, Harvoni was approved for clinical trials in younger kids. It’s now in trial for children as young as three. Next, Dr. Murray says she hopes someone will work on how to prevent mom to baby transmission; maybe by treating moms during pregnancy.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4344

BACKGROUND: Hepatitis C infection is a chronic viral infection. In the US more than 4 million people have hepatitis C; approximately 250,000 of those are children. Most are infected at birth, by vertical transmission or from mother to child. The higher the viral load in a mother the higher risk of infection for the child. Interventions at birth such as C-section have not been shown to alter the risk of infection at birth. If a child or adolescent is suspected of having hepatitis C, initial testing is to screen with a protein in the body that is produced by the body to fight germs such as bacteria or viruses. If the antibody test is positive, infection is then confirmed with a direct viral test. The mother’s hepatitis C antibody crosses the placenta and can stay in the blood of an infant for up to 18 months, therefor an anti-hepatitis C antibody test to screen for hepatitis C in infants cannot be used on an infant less than 18 months of age.

(Source: http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/what-is-hepatitis-c/hepatitis-c-in-children/)

SYMPTOMS/TREATMENT: It could take about two weeks before the virus can be detected in the blood, but it may take six to nine weeks after initial exposure to present symptoms. Some may include loss of appetite, yellowing of skin or eyes, tiredness, fever, stomachache and diarrhea, light-colored stools or dark urine. Not everyone with hepatitis C will experience symptoms. Antiviral treatments are available for people with chronic hepatitis C infection. Treatment can last for several months up to a year. When successful, treatment is considered curative. Treatment will be tailored around the specific genotype of the virus a child may have. A hepatologist or liver specialist will provide the best and most current treatment information available. Long-term outcomes vary and depend on the type of infection as well. Acute infections may be cured, but serious chronic conditions affecting the liver may require a liver transplant.

(Source: http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/hepatitis-c)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Harvoni is a prescription medicine approved for adults with chronic hepatitis C. As of April 2017 it was expanded for approval to ages 12-17 years old. Clinical trials for younger children are underway; the 3 to 6 year old cohort is currently enrolling. Approval for ages 3-11 will be sought when the data from this youngest cohort is available. Study subjects took two pills a day for 12 weeks, and Talon Hendrickson-Zimmerman did not have any side effects. His viral load went from 1.2 million to 20 in a week, and within two weeks he was cured. In adult clinical studies, 96-99 percent of patients with genotype 1 who had no prior treatment were cured with just 12 weeks of therapy.

(Sources: http://www.harvoni.com/ and Karen F. Murray, MD)


Monica Langsted


Anna Altars


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Karen F. Murray, MD

Read the entire Q&A