Department of Infectious Diseases, Peking University First Hospital, Peking University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Antidepressants are effective in treating interferon-α/ribavirin (IFN-α/RBV)-associated depression during or after treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Whether antidepressant prophylaxis is necessary in this population remains under debate.
Comprehensive searches were performed in Medline, Embase, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and PubMed. Reference lists were searched manually. The methodology was in accordance with the 2009 PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis) Statement.
We identified six randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving 522 CHC patients treated with pegylated (PEG)-IFN-α plus RBV. The antidepressants used were escitalopram, citalopram, and paroxetine, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The rates of depression (17.9% vs. 31.0%, P = 0.0005), and rescue therapy (27.4% vs. 42.7%, P<0.0001) in the SSRI group were significantly lower than those in the placebo group. The rate of sustained virological response (SVR) (56.8% vs. 50.0%, P = 0.60) and drug discontinuation (18.7% vs. 21.1%, P = 0.63) in the SSRI group did not differ significantly to those in the placebo group. In terms of safety, the incidence of muscle and joint pain (40.8% vs. 52.4%, P = 0.03) and respiratory problems (29.3% vs. 40.1%, P = 0.03) were lower, but the incidence of dizziness was significantly higher (22.3% vs. 10.2%, P = 0.001) in the SSRI group.
Prophylactic SSRI antidepressants can significantly reduce the incidence of PEG-IFN-α/RBV-associated depression in patients with CHC, with good safety and tolerability, without reduction of SVR.