BACKGROUND: Approximately one-third of patients undergoing interferon-? (IFN-?) therapy for treatment of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) develop major depression, which decreases functioning and may lead to the reduction or discontinuation of treatment.
OBJECTIVE: The authors examined the efficacy of citalopram in preventing IFN-?-induced depression in HCV patients. METHOD: This was a randomized, controlled trial comparing citalopram with placebo in 39 HCV patients. RESULTS: The rate of IFN-?-induced depression in the sample was 15.4% (6/39). Randomization to citalopram did not decrease the statistical likelihood of developing IFN-?-induced depression (10.5% for citalopram vs. 20.0% for placebo).
CONCLUSION: Citalopram does not prevent depression onset; however, an empirically-supported treatment recommendation for IFN-?-induced depression includes monitoring depressive symptoms throughout antiviral therapy and initiating psychiatric treatment at the initial signs of depression.