Hepatitis C Blues

Hepatitis C and depression tend to go hand-in-hand. For starters, there is the psychological impact of being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. But with hepatitis C, the situation gets trickier. Certain medications used in the treatment of hepatitis C – which are needed to clear the virus and avoid cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death – can increase the likelihood of depression in patients.

To better understand the total patient experience of hepatitis C patients, a recent study took a closer look at disease status and mental health (along with other comorbidities) in adults both with and without hepatitis C. Hepatitis C patients in the United States were more likely to experience anxiety and depression, with 38% and 46%, respectively, reporting these symptoms.

Interferon is the main hepatitis C medication linked to depression. With new hepatitis C treatments, interferon is going to be phased out of future hepatitis C treatments for most patients. However, for patients still requiring interferon, interferon-induced depression can be a serious and burdensome side effect.

Just this month, a review of research published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice showed that prophylactic administration of SSRI antidepressants to hepatitis C patients treated with interferon could lessen depression risk by 41%, compared to placebo (dummy pills).

The interrelationship of depression and hepatitis C is something that the specialty pharmacists at BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy have long known; which is why it’s been standard practice for us to include questions and treatments related to depression for our patients. It’s satisfying to see the research support and endorse what we’ve been doing all along.

Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO
BioPlus SP



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Dibonaventura MD, Yuan Y, Lescrauwaet B, et al. Multicountry burden of chronic hepatitis C viral infection among those aware of their diagnosis: A patient survey. PLoS One 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e86070.

Ehret M, Sobieraj DM. Prevention of interferon-alpha-associated depression with antidepressant medications in patients with hepatitis C virus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Clin Pract 2014 Feb;68(2):255-61.

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