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Original Research

Major Depressive Disorder in Hepatitis C: An Open-Label Trial of Escitalopram

Ondria C. Gleason William R. Yates Michelle A. Philipsen

Published: October 14, 2005

Article Abstract

Background: Depression is a common condition associated with hepatitis C and may be induced by interferon alfa, the primary treatment for hepatitis C. Depression is also a major barrier to the initiation of such treatment. This study examined the effect of escitalopram on measures of depression, quality of life, and tests of liver function in subjects with comorbid hepatitis C and depression.

Method: Subjects with DSM-IV major depressive disorder and hepatitis C were included in this open-label study. The recruitment period was from October 2002 through February 2004. Treatment status with regard to interferon therapy was neither an inclusion nor an exclusion criterion. Subjects received escitalopram for 8 weeks starting at 10 mg/day. Dosage adjustments up to 20 mg/day were made after week 4, as deemed clinically necessary. Scores on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D-17) and the Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale (CGI-S) and results of liver function tests (AST, ALT, GGT) were obtained at baseline, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 8 weeks. Medical Outcomes Study Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) ratings and Hopkins Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R) scores were obtained at baseline and week 8.

Results: Eighteen subjects (12 female, 6 male) participated in this study. The mean daily dose of escitalopram at endpoint was 12.78 mg. Mean HAM-D-17 scores decreased significantly with treatment (t = 8.535, df = 17, p < .0001). Statistically significant improvement was also demonstrated on many subscales of the SF-36, the SCL-90-R, and the CGI-S. Tests of liver function showed no significant changes.

Conclusion: These results suggest that depression in patients with hepatitis C may be effectively and safely treated with escitalopram.

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