As we move away from interferon- and ribavirin-based therapies in the treatment of hepatitis C virus infection, there is renewed hope that the improved health of patients is not just physical, but mental as well.
While depression is associated with many chronic diseases, the prevalence of depression in patients with HCV is much higher than the general population and chronic HCV is more likely than acute HCV to be associated with major depressive disorder, experts explained in our cover story.
In studies such as ION-1, experts like Nezam H. Afdhal, MD, found a significant physiologic improvement in imaging analyses after patients were treated with new combination therapies. Afdhal explains to HCV Next that patients have “brain fog” when HCV is at its peak, but show “improved neuronal function” at the time of sustained virologic response.
He and others suggest that improved mental health may be an added benefit to newer direct-acting antiviral treatments, perhaps making them more cost-effective in light of the hefty price tags. Only continued monitoring and awareness among physicians treating HCV can suffice to further this hypothesis and help patients suffering from depression and HCV.
Even with the continued success of newer therapies, some experts hold out hope that a vaccine is on the horizon for HCV. In our feature, Mark H. Kuniholm, PhD, discussed the need to “make every effort to develop a vaccine,” while others recognize the obstacles at play from various responses among genotypes to increased cost barriers.
As we continue to discover new benefits and possible detractions of these new treatments, we hope you continue to interact with our content within these pages and online at Healio.com/HCV.
– The Editors