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Prophylactic Antidepressant Treatment of Interferon-Induced Depression in Chronic Hepatitis C: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Clin Psychiatry 2014;75(10):e1113–e1121

Objective: To assess the utility of prophylactic administration of antidepressants in preventing a major depressive episode during antiviral treatment for chronic hepatitis C.

Data Sources: A computerized literature search was conducted in MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, and to locate articles published in any language from the earliest available online year until October 2012, using the following phrase and Boolean logic algorithm: “hepatitis and c and (interferon-alpha OR peginterferon OR (pegylated and interferon)) and (depression OR mood) and (prevention OR prophylactic OR prophylaxis OR antidepressant).”

Study Selection: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials using antidepressants prophylactically before starting antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C were included. At baseline, none of the patients in the trials presented depression (DSM-IV-TR criteria). Using keywords and cross-referenced bibliographies, 144 studies were identified and examined in depth. 137 articles were rejected because inclusion criteria were not met. Finally, 7 studies were included.

Data Extraction: Data were extracted independently by 2 investigators. The primary outcome measure was the onset of a major depressive episode during the antiviral treatment. Depressive symptoms, other side effects, and sustained virologic response were also examined. A full review and meta-analysis were performed. Odds ratios (ORs), mean differences, and estimated numbers needed to treat (NNTs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated.

Results: 591 patients were randomly assigned to antiviral treatment and another intervention: escitalopram (n = 197), paroxetine (n = 42), citalopram (n = 53), or placebo (n = 299). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as a group, reduced the incidence of a major depressive episode during antiviral treatment (OR = 0.53; 95% CI, 0.33 to 0.84). The NNT was 12 (95% CI, 7.0 to 37.9). SSRIs reduced depressive symptoms at 24 weeks of treatment (mean difference −2.18; 95% CI, −4.25 to −0.10). With regard to side effects, only dizziness was associated with administration of antidepressants (OR = 2.65; 95% CI, 1.46 to 4.80). There were no differences in sustained virologic response (OR = 1.22; 95% CI, 0.58 to 2.57).

Conclusions: Administration of SSRIs before starting antiviral treatment reduces the incidence of interferon-induced depression, with a relatively moderate prophylactic impact and good tolerability.