If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you likely know that it’s a liver infection caused by a virus. Your doctor may have suggested treatment with a drug called Harvoni. This exciting new medication is a single tablet that contains two drugs: ledipasvir and sofosbuvir. It’s taken by mouth just once per day. Harvoni can cure hepatitis C in most patients in 12 weeks. Previous hepatitis C treatments took longer, required several tablets and injections, had lower cure rates, and caused more severe side effects.
Harvoni seems to cause few side effects, and the ones it does cause tend to be mild. But because Harvoni is so new, we’re still learning about its side effects. One new side effect that doctors are hearing more about lately is depression. Here’s what we know today about Harvoni and depression.
This seems to be true. Recently, warnings about mood changes such as irritability or depression were added to Harvoni’s drug label. The warnings were added after new reports cited these mood changes in Harvoni patients. It’s not clear yet what leads to these side effects, but we do know about a few potential causes.
For one thing, depression may be linked to bradycardia, one of Harvoni’s side effects. Bradycardia is a slowing of your heart rate. It’s less common than most of Harvoni’s other side effects, but it’s more serious.
Bradycardia symptoms can include:
- feeling faint or lightheaded
- shortness of breath
- chest pains
These side effects combined with symptoms of hepatitis C, such as feeling tired and ill, could make you feel depressed.
Also, the drug sofosbuvir has been linked with serious depression or thoughts of suicide in rare cases. Sofosbuvir is one of the drugs in Harvoni. It’s not clear whether sofosbuvir itself causes depression. This is because it’s typically used with other hepatitis C drugs, such as interferon and ribavirin. These two drugs are known to cause depression, so they may be the cause of that side effect in patients taking sofosbuvir.
If you decide 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 problems you’ve had with depression, especially if you’ve been treated before for hepatitis C.
If you do take Harvoni and have depression or thoughts of suicide, call your doctor right away or go to the nearest emergency room. And don’t take the herbal supplement called St. John’s wort. Some people use it to self-treat their depression. But St. John’s wort can increase Harvoni’s side effects, including depression. If you use Harvoni and St. John’s wort together, it could make your depression worse.
If you have concerns about depression or a history of depression, talk with your doctor. They can help you decide if Harvoni is the best treatment option for your hepatitis C. And if needed, they can help you find a depression treatment plan that works for you.