Effects of Direct-Acting Antiviral Agents on the Mental Health of Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C: A Prospective Observational Study

Brain Sci. 2020 Jul 27;10(8):483. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10080483.


In chronic hepatitis C (CHC) patients, interferon-based treatments showed toxicity, limited efficacy, and psychiatric manifestations. Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) agents appeared safer, though it remains unclear if they may exacerbate or foster mood symptoms in drug-naïve CHC patients. We evaluated 62 CHC patients' mental status, before and 12 weeks after DAA therapy, by assessment scales and psychometric instruments. We subdivided patients into two groups, CHC patients with (Group A) or without (Group B) a current and/or past psychiatric history. After DAA treatment, Group A patients showed low anxiety and improved depression, no variation in self-report distress, but worse general health perceptions. No significant difference emerged from coping strategies. Depression and anxiety improved in Group B, and no change emerged from total self-reported distress, except for somatization. Moreover, Group B increased problem-focused strategies for suppression of competing activities, and decreased strategies of instrumental social support. Contrarily, Group B reduced significantly emotion-focused strategies, such as acceptance and mental disengagement, and improved vitality, physical and social role functioning. DAA therapy is safe and free of hepatological and psychiatric side effects in CHC patients, regardless of current and/or past psychiatric history. In particular, patients without a psychiatric history also remarkably improved their quality of life.

Keywords: anxiety; chronic hepatitis C; consultation-liaison psychiatry; depression; direct-acting antiviral agents; hepatitis C virus.