Help Available for Depression Triggered by Interferon
WebMD News Archive
Meenhard Herlyn, DSci, of Philadelphia's Wistar Institute, says
that more patients might agree to take high-dose interferon therapy if it could
be made less physically difficult.
"Anything you can do to reduce the side effects of
interferon would be a big help," Herlyn says. "Many people have to stop
the treatment because they can't handle it."
People with hepatitis C also are treated with interferon
infusions combined with the drug Virazole.
Though it's likely that many of these patients become depressed
from interferon, few studies have documented how widespread the problem may be.
The CDC says nearly 4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, a liver
disease transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood or
Miller's next study will look at whether Paxil can reduce
depression among hepatitis C patients. So far, it seems to be working, he
Hepatitis C expert Adrian M. Di Bisceglie, MD, tells WebMD he
gives antidepressants to patients on interferon therapy at the first sign of a
problem. If patients have a history of depression or have experienced
depression once before while on interferon, he gives antidepressants before
"We started doing this without [research to support it],
though," says Di Bisceglie, a professor of internal medicine and chief of
hepatology at St. Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri. "It's
good to get some science injected into this." But he says the study does
not mean that everyone who receives interferon needs to be pretreated with
While it looks as though Paxil has a similar potential to
reduce depression in hepatitis C patients, the drug has sexual side effects
that could become an issue for people living with a chronic disease like
hepatitis than for those trying to get through cancer treatment.
"It hasn't come up as yet, but it might, and then, of
course, we might think about using other antidepressants that might have a
little bit better profile as far as sexual function," Miller says.