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Reduction in Depressive Symptoms in People who Inject Drugs who Are Cured of Hepatitis C Virus Infection: The HERO Study.

BACKGROUND: Depressive symptoms are prevalent among people who inject drugs (PWID) and people with hepatitis C virus (HCV). We examined changes in depressive symptoms among HCV-infected PWID following direct-acting antiviral treatments to evaluate whether these changes differed by history of depressive symptoms, substance use, or HCV treatment outcome.

METHODS: We conducted a secondary analysis of the HERO Study (NCT02824640), a pragmatic randomized clinical trial among PWID, to test the effectiveness of HCV care models. Depressive symptoms (primary outcome) were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) at baseline, end of treatment (EOT), and at follow-up 12 and 24 weeks after EOT. Sustained virologic response (SVR) was defined as undetectable HCV RNA at ≥12 weeks following EOT. Baseline drug use was defined as having a positive urine screening test for amphetamine, methamphetamine, benzodiazepine, cocaine, cannabis, opiate, or oxycodone.

RESULTS: The sample (n = 498) was 72.3% male, 64.2% White, and on average 43.9 years old. In patients who achieved SVR (F(3432) = 4.58; P = .004) and those with drug use at baseline (F(3478) = 5.11; P < .01), PHQ-9 scores significantly declined over time, with scores lower at EOT and both follow-ups as compared with baseline. Mean PHQ-9 scores at EOT and follow-ups were significantly lower than at baseline, except for those with no depression or mild depression at baseline.

CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that HCV treatment in PWID is associated with sustained declines in depression up to 24 weeks post-treatment among those who achieve SVR and that drug use does not interfere with improvement in depressive symptoms.

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