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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • comorbidity;
  • epidemiology;
  • hepatitis C;
  • interferon;
  • mental health;
  • mood disorders;
  • substance use disorders;
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Objectives:  To determine and compare hepatitis C (HCV) screening and testing rates among four groups: those with (i) bipolar disorder [BD group (history of BD but no substance use disorder)]; (ii) substance use disorders [SUD group (history of SUD but no BD)]; (iii) co-occurring disorders [DD group (history of both BD and an SUD)]; and (iv) a control group (no history of either bipolar disorder or substance use disorder). Our hypothesis was that HCV antibody testing rates and HCV prevalence would be higher in the BD, SUD, and DD groups than the control group.

Methods:  Data were retrospectively collected on 325,410 patients seen between 1998 and 2004 within facilities and clinics of the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 20 Northwest Veterans Health Care Administration from electronic medical records. HCV screening and prevalence rates were compared between the BD, SUD, DD, and control groups. Odds ratios and relative risks were determined and compared between groups.

Results:  Patients in the BD, SUD, and DD groups had been tested at a higher rate than controls and were at increased risk for HCV infection compared with controls. These high-risk groups had a 1.31-fold, 4.86-fold, and 5.46-fold increase in the relative risk of HCV infection, respectively. Overall, compared to the control group, the relative risk of a patient having HCV if he or she had BD (with or without an SUD) was 3.6.

Conclusions:  Patients with BD and comorbid SUD had an over fourfold increase in relative risk for HCV than our control group and a similar risk as patients in our SUD group. Furthermore, even if bipolar patients did not have a comorbid SUD (the BD group), their relative risk of HCV was significantly higher than that of the control group. This suggests that patients with BD, particularly those with a comorbid SUD, should be screened and tested for HCV.