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Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Feb 7;7(2):e1026. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.274.

Recurrence of depressive disorders after interferon-induced depression.

Chiu WC1,2, Su YP1,2, Su KP3,4, Chen PC5,6,7.

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Department of Psychiatry, Cathay General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.
School of Medicine, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Graduate Institute of Neural and Cognitive Sciences, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan.
Department of Psychiatry and Mind-Body Interface Laboratory, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan.
Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, National Taiwan University College of Public Health, Taipei, Taiwan.
Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.
Department of Public Health, National Taiwan University College of Public Health, Taipei, Taiwan.


Interferon alpha (IFN-α)-treated patients commonly develop depression during the therapy period. Although most IFN-α-induced depressive disorders achieve remission after IFN-α therapy, no studies have examined the long-term mood effects of IFN-α treatment. We conducted a 12-year population-based cohort study of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected patients who were older than 20 years and had received IFN-α therapy. The sample was obtained from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. The cohort included patients with and without IFN-α-induced depression, matched randomly by age, sex and depression history, at a ratio of 1:10. The follow-up started after the last administration of IFN-α and was designed to determine the incidence of recurrent depressive disorder after IFN-α therapy. A total of 156 subjects were identified as having IFN-α-induced depression and achieving full remission after IFN-α therapy. The overall incidence of recurrent depressive disorders among patients with and without IFN-α-induced depression was 56.8 (95% confidence interval (CI), 42.4-76.1) and 4.1 (95% CI, 2.9-5.8) cases, respectively, per 100 000 person-years, P<0.001. The adjusted hazard ratios for recurrent depressive disorder were 13.5 (95% CI, 9.9-18.3) in the IFN-α-treated cohort and 22.2 (95% CI, 11.2-44.2) in the matched cohort for IFN-α-induced depression patients after adjusting for age, sex, income, urbanization and comorbid diseases. IFN-α-induced depression was associated with a high risk of recurrent depression. It was not a transient disease and might be considered an episode of depressive disorder. Continuation therapy might be considered, and further research is needed.

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