Psychiatric symptoms during interferon treatment for hepatitis C:experiences from a tertiary care hepatology centre


Dr D. M. Evon, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, CB# 7584, 8010 Burnett-Womack, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Background  Most research on the psychiatric symptoms of peginterferon/ribavirin for the treatment of hepatitis C comes from VA centres and clinical trials with rigid entry criteria that often excluded patients with markers of mental health and substance use disturbance (MH/SUD). The findings from these lines of research may not be generalizable to patients treated under standard of care in a tertiary care setting.

Aim  To investigate the incidence and outcomes of psychiatric symptoms in patients treated under standard of care protocol, not enrolled in clinical trials.

Methods  This is a retrospective analysis of 215 patients who underwent therapy from 2002 to 2006 at a university-based tertiary care centre. Survival curves explored the relationship between history of MH/SUD and the development of psychiatric symptoms on treatment.

Results  The cumulative history of MH/SUD was 67%. Of these, 39% had taken psychotropic medications previously, and 80% continued on them during therapy. On therapy, 46% developed depressive symptoms, 19% and 46% endorsed anxiety and irritability respectively. Cumulatively, 64% of patients indicated mood disturbance on therapy. Most symptoms developed between weeks 2 and 18, and rarely after week 20. Of those who developed mood symptoms, 66% required an intervention. Treatment discontinuation was infrequent.

Conclusions  This large observational study provides important insights into the incidence and course of psychiatric symptoms in an unselected sample of patients treated in a tertiary care setting. Patients had higher rates of MH/SUD comorbidity, psychotropic medication use and exhibit higher rates of mood disturbance on therapy compared with previous reports, although a majority completed the prescribed treatment regimen.