We investigated and compared the results of treating the chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection of different groups of psychiatric-risk patients and controls with pegylated interferon alpha (pegIFN-alpha) plus ribavirin. Seventy patients were prospectively screened for psychiatric disorders. Seventeen patients without psychiatric diseases or drug addiction (controls), 22 patients with psychiatric disorders, 18 patients who had received methadone substitution treatment and 13 patients who were former drug users were treated with pegIFN-alpha plus ribavirin. Sustained virological response (SVR), adherence, and psychiatric side effects (using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale) in the groups were compared. An SVR was found in 58.6% of all patients: 58.8% of the controls, 50% of psychiatric patients, 72.2% of methadone patients, and 53.8% of former drug users. Methadone-substituted patients and former drug users had significantly higher dropout rates. Scores for neither depressive nor psychotic symptoms differed significantly between groups during treatment. However, the controls had lower pretreatment scores, followed by a significant higher increase to maximum scores. A stepwise logistic regression model showed that only genotype, not group (control, psychiatric, methadone, or former drug abuse), type of psychiatric diagnosis (affective disorder, personality disorder, or schizophrenic disorder), depression scores before and during treatment, change in depression score, antidepressive treatment, sex, or liver enzymes before treatment, was associated with SVR.
Conclusion: In an interdisciplinary treatment setting psychiatric diseases and/or drug addiction did not negatively influence psychiatric tolerability of and antiviral response rate to HCV treatment with pegIFN-alpha and ribavirin.