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Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Jan;96(1):157-64.

Influence of psychiatric diagnoses on interferon-alpha treatment for chronic hepatitis C in a veteran population.

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Department of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55417, USA.



The prevalence of psychiatric problems and substance abuse is high in the veteran population with hepatitis C. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively analyze the effect of preexisting psychiatric conditions in veteran patients undergoing treatment with interferon a-2b (IFN-alpha) with respect to adverse events, compliance, and treatment response.


Thirty-three veterans with chronic hepatitis C were treated with IFN-alpha (5 million units three times weekly) for 6 months, followed by a tapering dose for an additional 6 months. All patients fulfilled standard criteria for treatment eligibility. Psychiatric diagnoses, adverse events, and virological and biochemical responses to therapy were determined.


Nineteen of 33 (58%) patients with hepatitis C had documented psychiatric conditions before starting IFN-alpha therapy. Of the patients with preexisting psychiatric diagnoses, 13/19 (68%) developed major adverse events requiring intervention or discontinuation of therapy. In contrast, 4/14 (29%) patients without psychiatric diagnoses developed major adverse events (p = 0.024) In the psychiatric group, 6/19 (32%) developed major neuropsychiatric side effects compared with 2/14 patients (14%) in the nonpsychiatric group (p = 0.25). Patients with and without psychiatric diagnoses had equivalent biochemical and virological responses to therapy. Overall, only 2/33 (6%) patients had a sustained virological response.


Veterans with chronic hepatitis C and psychiatric diagnoses experienced a significantly greater number of major adverse events during treatment with IFN-alpha. Veteran patients with hepatitis C should be carefully screened for psychiatric conditions and may require more intensive monitoring during IFN-alpha therapy.

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