Source Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Psychology Service, Palo Alto, California, USA.
OBJECTIVES: Accounting for severity of depressive symptoms at baseline (pretreatment), this study describes (i) depressive symptom change over the course of antiviral treatment among patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV), and (ii) the relationship of such symptom change to treatment duration and response.
METHODS: Depressive symptoms, measured with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), were examined prospectively among 129 HCV patients (95% male) who endorsed minimal (n=91), mild (n=28), or moderate depressive symptoms (n=10) prior to commencement of antiviral therapy. Assessments were obtained at baseline, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and thereafter at 4-week intervals until treatment was discontinued or completed.
RESULTS: The average depression score of the participants prior to commencing treatment was 7.4 (minimal depression). Depressive symptoms increased over the course of treatment, with average scores of 12.6 (mild depression) at the final assessment at the end of treatment. Patients with mild depressive symptoms at baseline demonstrated the greatest increase (M(increase)=12.7) and the greatest change (M(Δ)=5.8) in depressive symptoms from baseline to treatment completion. Patients who were minimally depressed at baseline completed the least amount of treatment (74%). Likewise, minimally depressed patients were less likely than mildly and moderately depressed patients to attain an antiviral treatment response.
CONCLUSIONS: Depressive symptoms may worsen during antiviral therapy among patients with HCV. Notable changes in patients with subclinical depressive symptoms at baseline may be of significant concern, as the present work suggests that their depressive symptom changes are the most unstable. Thus, findings suggest that the degree of within treatment symptom change may be a more useful predictor (compared with baseline depression status) of ability to tolerate treatment. As the findings of the present study are preliminary, we urge further research and replication before drawing firm conclusions.