New Treatments for Hepatitis C

NorthShore Patient Lisa Short

Lisa Short had been struggling with her health for years when she came to NorthShore for help. Now 52, the mother of three children had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1999. She was living in Michigan at the time, and the interferon treatments she received were not successful. “I was about to give up,” said Short.

But while scrolling the internet one day, just two years ago, she learned about the work of Claus J. Fimmel, MD, a prominent hepatologist who had been recruited to NorthShore by Jay Goldstein, MD, Vice Chairman of Medicine and Head, Division of Gastroenterology.

NorthShore created a section of Hepatology under that division for
Dr. Fimmel to lead. He and his team treat patients with Hepatitis B and C and other liver diseases, which are on the rise. It’s estimated that 5 percent of baby boomers are infected with Hepatitis C, which often evolves without symptoms. Untreated, infections can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and the need for liver transplantation.

“It’s hoped that eradication of Hepatitis C with new medications might prevent the progression to cirrhosis and its complications," said
Dr. Fimmel. "Long-term studies and philanthropy are needed to prove this hypothesis. We have successfully treated almost 300 patients in just the past two years."

Under Dr. Fimmel’s care, Short was evaluated with FibroScan®, a noninvasive ultrasound that measures the elasticity of the liver. In the past, patients with liver disease would have to undergo liver biopsies to assess scarring and damage. NorthShore is one of only a few suburban health systems in the Chicago area with the FibroScan technology.

Short began receiving oral antiviral medication in 2014 and within just a few short months, tests revealed there was no longer any sign of Hepatitis C. Her liver function tests were normal. “It was amazing,” said Short. “There were no side effects. It was so incredible to get help so fast. From the minute I met Dr. Fimmel, I knew things were going to be all right. He has a wonderful, calming demeanor,” she said.

Dr. Fimmel said there has been a dramatic change in treating Hepatitis C over the past two years. “Better medications have come to the market, and more are expected to become available in the future. While expensive, they do afford high cure rates and have fewer side effects.”

If you’d like to learn more about supporting Dr. Fimmel and his research team, please email John Hanson, PhD, Director of Philanthropy, at jhanson@northshore.org or call 224.364.7208 for more information.

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