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SourceURL:http://www.reutershealth.com/archive/2002/11/25/eline/links/200211 25elin014.html
Study looks at hepatitis drug, depression risk
Last Updated: 2002-11-25 13:00:10 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Up to one third of patients with hepatitis C who are treated with interferon may become depressed, according to the results of a small study. However, many patients can take antidepressants while continuing their interferon therapy, the researchers report.

Besides being used to treat the potentially life-threatening liver disease hepatitis C virus (HCV), interferon is also used to treat adult leukemia, certain kidney cancers, the skin cancer melanoma and hepatitis B.

"The good news is that, in most cases, we could successfully treat the depression," lead study author Dr. Peter Hauser of the Portland VA Medical Center in Oregon said in a prepared statement.

While previous studies have identified depression as a potential side effect of interferon therapy, little is known about how common depression occurs in such patients. And, while physicians have been inclined to halt interferon therapy when depression arises, Hauser and colleagues now say that, according to their study findings, most patients can be treated with antidepressants while remaining on the drug.

Writing in the November issue of Molecular Psychiatry, Hauser's team reports on a group of 39 HCV-infected patients who were treated with interferon. All of the patients were monitored for depression each week during the study period.

"Our results showed that 13 of 39 patients (33%) developed interferon-induced major depressive disorder," the authors write.

Notably, the investigation revealed depressive symptoms typically developed between the 6th and 22nd week of interferon therapy.

"We found that when depression developed in our patients it developed rapidly," Hauser and colleagues write. As such, the investigators recommend that patients be screened for depression every 2 weeks.

Of the 13 patients who developed depression, 11 of them responded positively to antidepressants, the report indicates.

"Treating HCV patients with antidepressants may ultimately reduce deaths as well as permit HCV patients to complete a full course of interferon therapy and possibly avoid the complications of advanced liver disease," the authors conclude.

The study was funded by grants from Integrated Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, and Forest Laboratories.

SOURCE: Molecular Psychiatry 2002;7:942-947.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited

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