• interferon;
  • depression;
  • hepatitis C;
  • methodological approaches;
  • psychometric instruments


In recent years, research on interferon (IFN)-induced depressive symptoms in antivirally treated patients suffering from chronic hepatitis C (CHC) has considerably intensified. Profound scientific knowledge of this complication is of great relevance with regard to adherence, compliance, and premature therapy discontinuation.

Presently, there is considerable variability of both, the frequency and extent of IFN-induced depression reported in different cohorts of patients.

The aim of the presented study was to systematically review recent literature of research within this field; and particularly (1) to identify to what extent methodological bias contributed to inconsistent results in different studies, (2) to critically appraise methods and results of studies published so far, and (3) to suggest directions for future work, especially with respect to alternative and improved methodological approaches.

The results of this critical review suggest that the variability of findings seem to be largely due to different study populations, treatment regimens, methodological approaches, and sometimes arbitrary or at least poorly defined choice of screening instruments for depression, particularly criteria for clinically relevant depression (cut-off criteria).

Study designs and methodological approaches to investigate IFN-alfa-induced depression in patients with CHC have been incoherent. Future research in this field needs agreement on the use of standardized assessment of IFN-induced depression in CHC. Furthermore, objective criteria and guidelines for the treatment of IFN-induced depression in these patients are needed in clinical practice. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.