For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

See also: In The Military

VA gets head start
in use of new
hepatitis C drug

Question: I heard about a new treatment for veterans with hepatitis C. Can you explain what it is?

Answer: About a month ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new treatment for hepatitis C that was quickly made available to Department of Veterans Affairs enrolled veterans. The treatment is called "pegylated interferon alfa-2a."

Pegylated interferon requires only once-weekly injections, offering patients more convenience and a better quality of life.

The VA takes care of more patients with hepatitis C, a debilitating liver disease, than any other health system in the country -- more than 70,000 a year. The VA is obtaining this new drug sooner than any other medical system.

Several advances in treating hepatitis C, particularly with the introduction of the pegylated interferons, include drugs that act against the hepatitis C virus used alone or in combination with other drugs.

Through VA's national hepatitis C program, which has been in place for about two years, veterans with hepatitis C receive the most appropriate medical care, including counseling for risk factor identification and disease prevention; systematic screening and testing; proactive patient and clinician education; liver transplantation if clinically necessary; and support services such as substance abuse and mental health care.

VA has screened more than 2.6 million veterans for hepatitis C risk factors since the systemwide policy was established in 1999.

To better manage and improve patient care, VA created a national case registry of patients.

For more information on the hepatitis C programs, contact the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical and Regional Office Center at 433-0600.

Q: As a veteran, where can I get emergency care?

A: Emergency services are available at Tripler Army Medical Center through sharing agreement with the VA.

When traveling outside Honolulu, you may receive emergency services at any VA facility in the United States.

If there is no VA medical facility in the area you are traveling, seek emergency medical care from the closest non-VA medical facility.

Keep in mind that you may be fully responsible for payment of those services if you do not meet eligibility requirements for "emergency care in non-VA facilities." For more information, call 433-0600.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

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