Suicidal ideation during interferon-alpha2b and ribavirin treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2004 May-Jun;26(3):237-40. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2004.01.003.


Psychiatric and substance use disorders affect most patients with chronic hepatitis C and are the most common reasons for exclusion from antiviral therapies. Suicidal ideation (SI) is often cited as a reason to exclude patients from interferon-based treatment or to terminate antiviral treatment that is in progress. This study examines SI in hepatitis C patients untreated and treated with interferon-alpha2b, a medication commonly associated with depression. Fifty-five subjects with chronic hepatitis C were followed for 24 weeks with three measures of depression, each containing one item assessing SI. A total of 15/55 (27%) subjects reported SI while not on interferon therapy. Of the 42 patients treated with interferon, 18 (43%) endorsed SI at some point during antiviral treatment. However, 17/18 (94%) finished at least a 6-month course of interferon therapy. No subjects attempted suicide. Although SI in some form is common in hepatitis C patients, in most cases it is mild in nature. With adequate support most patients can successfully complete a full course of antiviral treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Contraindications
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry)
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / adverse effects*
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Sertraline / therapeutic use
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Wisconsin


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Sertraline