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Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(9):942-7.

A prospective study of the incidence and open-label treatment of interferon-induced major depressive disorder in patients with hepatitis C.

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  • 1Portland VA Medical Center, Behavioral Health and Neurosciences Division, NW Hepatitis C Field Based Resource Center/Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, OR 97201, USA.


Interferon (IFN) therapy has been associated with the development of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) when given to patients with hepatitis C (HCV). The incidence, time course, risk factors, and treatment of IFN-induced MDD are poorly understood. The objectives of the present study were to determine the incidence of IFN-induced MDD, as well as to determine the efficacy of open-label antidepressant treatment, in particular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for IFN-induced MDD. Thirty-nine HCV patients on IFN therapy were monitored weekly using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Those who became depressed were treated with citalopram, a SSRI antidepressant. Main outcome measures included the incidence of IFN-induced MDD, as well as response rates to antidepressants in those patients who developed IFN-induced MDD. Our results showed that 13 of 39 patients (33%) developed IFN-induced MDD. There were no differences in age, gender, past history of MDD, or substance use between those who became depressed and those who did not. However, there were significantly fewer African American patients in the depressed group. Patients who developed IFN-induced MDD were on IFN therapy for an average of 12.1 weeks prior to the development of MDD. Eleven of 13 patients (85%) were responsive to antidepressant treatment. We conclude that IFN-induced MDD is common in HCV patients. Health care providers should follow IFN-treated HCV patients for the development of MDD, particularly between the 2nd and 5th months of IFN therapy. SSRIs, in particular citalopram, are an effective treatment for IFN-induced depression in HCV patients.

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