Aims — Patients with chronic viral hepatitis suffer from a high prevalence of psychiatric problems. Furthermore, the treatment for chronic viral hepatitis, with interferon (IFN) alpha, induces the occurrence of further psychopathological symptoms. The autors examined whether patients with a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis had more severe IFN alpha-induced psychiatric adverse effects, and whether they were more likely to interrupt the IFN alpha therapy, compared with control patients with no pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis. They also examined the psychopharmacological management of the interferon-alpha-induced psychiatric side effects. Methods — The authors studied prospectively 60 patients with chronic hepatitis B or C in Cagliari, Italy. Patients underwent psychiatric assessment before starting interferon alpha and monthly throughout the therapy. Results — After adjusting for the baseline psychopathology, there was no statistically significant difference in interferon-alpha-induced psychiatric adverse effects between patients with a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis and controls. There was also no evidence that psychiatric cases were more likely than controls to interrupt the IFN alpha therapy because of psychiatric side effects. Moreover, there was no difference in the psychiatric adverse effects severe enough to require psychopharmacological treatment. Finally, psychopharmaco-logical management successfully treated psychiatric symptoms induced by the IFN alpha. Conclusions — Patients with a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis do not have a specific vulnerability to interferon-alpha-induced psychiatric adverse effects.
Declaration of Interest: none of the authors have conflict of interests in writing this paper; CM. Pariante is funded by the UK Medical Research Council and by the NARSAD and the Guy's and St Thomas Charity