If you’ve received a hepatitis C diagnosis, your doctor may suggest treatment with a drug called Harvoni. This medication came on the market in 2014. It’s a direct-acting antiviral (DAA). It comes as a single tablet that contains two drugs: ledipasvir and sofosbuvir.
Harvoni can cure hepatitis C infection in most people in 12 weeks. Before DAAs became available, hepatitis C treatments took longer. They also required several tablets and injections, had lower cure rates, and caused more severe side effects.
Harvoni seems to cause few side effects. The ones it does cause tend to be mild. But because Harvoni is relatively new, we’re still learning about its side effects.
One side effect that doctors have heard about is depression. Here’s what we know today about Harvoni and depression.
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After Harvoni came on the market, its manufacturer added warnings about mood changes, such as irritability or depression, to the medication’s drug label. The warnings were added after reports cited these mood changes in people taking Harvoni.
It’s not clear yet what could lead to these uncommon side effects. One possibility is the use of sofosbuvir, one of the drugs in Harvoni. In rare cases, sofosbuvir has been linked with serious depression or thoughts of suicide.
However, even that link hasn’t been fully established. It’s not clear whether sofosbuvir itself causes depression. That’s because sofosbuvir has typically been used in combination with other hepatitis C drugs, such as interferon and ribavirin. And these two drugs are known to cause depression, so they may be the cause of that side effect in people taking sofosbuvir.
So what should you do if you’re concerned about the depression risk associated with Harvoni?
If you decide you’d like to try Harvoni, talk with your doctor about your risk of depression. They should have the latest information about the drug’s effects, including reports from clinical trials.
Also, be sure to talk about your medical history. Discuss any past issues you’ve had with depression, especially if you’ve been treated before for hepatitis C.
And if you do take Harvoni and have depression or thoughts of suicide, call your doctor right away or go to the nearest emergency room.
St. John’s wortIf you take St. John’s wort to help manage depression, talk to your doctor before taking Harvoni. St. John’s wort can lessen the effects of Harvoni, which can make it less effective in treating your hepatitis C.
Harvoni typically doesn’t cause many other side effects. The ones most often reported include:
- trouble sleeping
Fatigue and headache are the most common side effects of Harvoni.
Harvoni doesn’t typically cause depression. But if you have concerns about depression and Harvoni or have a history of depression, talk with your doctor. Also talk to them if you have concerns about any other side effects of Harvoni.
Your doctor can help you decide if Harvoni is a good treatment option for your hepatitis C. And if needed, they can help find ways to reduce any side effects or find a depression treatment plan that works for you.