Medco: Antidepressant use may boost adherence among hepatitis C patients

BALTIMORE — Medication adherence among hepatitis C patients may improve when patients take antidepressants, according to a new analysis by pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions presented Monday at the International Conference on Viral Hepatitis.

In a new observational analysis, Medco found that when hepatitis C patients taking interferon treatments with the generic antiviral drug ribavirin also were treated for depression — a common side effect of interferon use — they more likely were to be compliant. Overall, 46% of patients with hepatitis C take antidepressants. Interferons are biotech drugs commonly used to treat hepatitis and include Genentech’s Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) and Merck’s PegIntron (peginterferon alfa-2b).

“A common side effect of interferon is depression, but little research has been done looking at the impact of treating depression on a patient’s adherence with their hepatitis C medications,” Medco Advanced Clinical Science and Research Group director of clinical innovation Mary Cassler said. “These findings point to the need to proactively screen patients on interferon for depression and make sure that those who show signs of depression receive the proper interventions.”

According to the study, about 40% of patients with the virus who had been prescribed the drugs were not compliant, putting them at risk of the disease progressing due to their failure to eliminate the virus. At the same time, patients taking antidepressants had the highest rates of adherence. Among patients with hepatitis C and HIV, the rate of adherence was even higher, with 77.3% of those taking antidepressants complying with their interferon therapy.