Date Published: 3 October 2006
Hep C treatment side effects: finding your own cure
The side effects of hepatitis C treatments can have such a debilitating effect on quality of life that some people choose to cease the treatment, according to a world-first qualitative study completed at UNSW.
“ Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, not to mention rashes, loss of hair and flu-like symptoms are all common side effects of the treatment,”
said Max Hopwood from the National Centre in HIV Research, speaking about the study for the first time to promote Hepatitis C Awareness Week.
“ When you consider that treatment for hepatitis C lasts for either six or 12 months, many patients are affected for an extended period of time with no guarantee that a cure will result.”
However, the study found a broad range of reactions to the treatment drugs, interferon and ribavirin.
“ Some people can barely get out of bed for months while others sail through with very few changes to their lives. The findings of this study highlight such varied responses to treatment” Hopwood said.
One of the primary areas assessed was the different ways that people cope with the side effects, particularly the mood disorders.
“ People used a number of coping mechanisms,” said Hopwood.
“ These ranged from medical strategies such as anti-depressants to personal solutions such as watching funny videos or listening to music. Some people socialized more, some less; the ways that people handled side effects were very diverse.”
According to the study depression is one of the hardest hepatitis C treatment side effects to live with.
“ Hepatitis C infection can cause depression,” explained Hopwood.
“ So can the treatment drugs and so does feeling sick all the time from the side effects of treatment.”
“ Most families are really wonderful and supportive but for some these treatments can be a real challenge,” he explained.
“ We had people who reported experiencing a personality change which made them almost unrecognizable to their loved ones. There can also be a severe financial strain associated with being unwell and off work for such a long period of time. We did find that some people were fearful of disclosing their hepatitis C infection which limited their options for acquiring support.”
There have been many studies into the medical impacts of hepatitis C treatment but this is the first one to look at how the treatment affects a person’s personal, social and working life.
Source: The University of New South Wales (Australia).