Background Antiviral treatment with interferon-alpha (IFN-α) is associated with several acute psychiatric side effects. Little is known about long-term effects on mental health after treatment independent from viral response and the influence of pre-existing psychiatric risk-factors.
Aim To evaluate long-term effects of antiviral treatment with interferon-alpha (IFN-α) on mental health in patients with psychiatric risk factors.
Method We prospectively investigated long-term mental health changes in 81 hepatitis C virus-infected patients. Psychiatric outcome was measured with the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Scale (MADRS), Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, the Global Social Functioning Scale and the Global Clinical Impression Scale 6 months after the end of antiviral treatment with IFN-α and ribavirin.
Results Six months after antiviral therapy, 49% of the patients showed a worsening and 27.2% an improvement of depression scores. The most important predictor for a long-term improvement of depression scores was a pre-treatment MADRS score ≥5 (OR 14.21, 95% CI: 2.51–81.30). Patients with pre-existing psychiatric disorders (OR = 0.117, 95% CI: 0.024–0.558), methadone substitution (OR = 0.20, 95% CI: 0.045–0.887) or genotype 2/3 (OR = 0.341, 95% CI: 0.138–0.845) were significantly less likely to show a long-term worsening of depressive symptoms.
Conclusions Pre-existing psychiatric risk factors increase the chance for a long-term improvement and reduce the risk for a long-term worsening of mental health after antiviral treatment of chronic hepatitis C with IFN-α.