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Objective: To prospectively evaluate for changes in objective cognitive performance (attention, memory, and executive function) and psychiatric symptom severity (depression, anxiety, fatigue, and pain) in patients before, during and after interferon-alpha based therapy (IFN) for chronic hepatitis C virus infection (HCV).

Methods: 33 HCV+ adults were evaluated two months before IFN initiation (baseline), three months into IFN, and six months following IFN termination (IFN+ Group). 31 HCV+ adults who did not undergo IFN therapy were evaluated at baseline and six months later (IFN− Group). At each evaluation, participants completed the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB) Attention, Memory and Executive Functions Modules, the Beck Depression Inventory, Second Edition (BDI), Generalized Anxiety Disorder Inventory (GADI), Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), and Brief Pain Inventory (BPI).

Results: Compared with the IFN− Group, the IFN+ Group experienced significantly (p b 0.050) increased symp-toms of depression, anxiety, fatigue and pain during IFN therapy relative to baseline. In the IFN+ Group, psychi-atric symptoms generally returned to baseline levels following IFN termination. Sustained viral response was associated with significantly lower depression and fatigue. No significant changes in cognitive performance were observed.

Conclusions: During IFN, patients with HCV evidence significantly increased psychiatric symptoms, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue and pain. These psychiatric symptoms are generally short-term and remit following IFN termination, with increased benefit if viral clearance is achieved. However, IFN is not associated with significant declines in objective cognitive performance during or following IFN.


Originally published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, (2015), Vol. 78, No. 2, pgs. 184-92.

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