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Antivir Ther. 2004 Dec;9(6):905-9.

Depressive symptoms after initiation of interferon therapy in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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  • 1Infectious Diseases Unit, Hospital Clinic Universitari de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.



Interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) therapy for chronic hepatitis C (CHC) infection is commonly associated with neuropsychiatric side effects including depressive symptomatology. In this study, we evaluated the incidence and management of depressive symptoms during IFN-alpha therapy in HIV-infected patients with CHC.


HIV-infected patients with CHC who began IFN-alpha and ribavirin therapy during the recruitment period April 2001 to April 2003 were included in the study. Patients with a history of major depressive disorder were excluded.


Of 113 co-infected patients who started IFN-alpha therapy during the recruitment period, 45 (40%) developed symptoms of depression (sadness, tiredness and apathy). Twenty of them (44%) were treated with citalopram, a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, resulting in a significant improvement in their symptoms. Most of the patients (60%) showed depressive side effects in the first 3 months after initiation of IFN-alpha. In addition, during the study, three patients developed psychotic symptoms and one committed suicide.


The incidence of depressive symptoms in patients with HIV/HCV co-infection treated with IFN-alpha is high. Most of the depressive symptoms were not severe and improved with antidepressant therapy, without reduction or cessation of IFN-alpha therapy. During the first weeks after initiating IFN-alpha therapy for HIV/HCV co-infection, close assessment of psychiatric symptoms is recommended. Early treatment of these side effects with antidepressants would help avoid early dropouts from interferon therapy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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