Interferon Based Treatment
Most persons have flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, headache, muscle and
joint aches, fast heart rate) early in treatment, but these lessen with
continued treatment. Later side effects may include tiredness, hair
loss, low blood count, trouble with thinking, moodiness, and depression.
Severe side effects are rare (seen in less than 2 out of 100 persons).
These include thyroid disease, depression with suicidal thoughts,
seizures, acute heart or kidney failure, eye and lung problems, hearing
loss, and blood infection. Although rare, deaths have occurred due to
liver failure or blood infection, mostly in persons with cirrhosis. An
important side effect of interferon is worsening of liver disease with
treatment, which can be severe and even fatal. Interferon dosage must be
reduced in up to 40 out of 100 persons because of severity of side
effects, and treatment must be stopped in up to 15 out of 100 persons.
Pregnant women should not be treated with interferon
Interferon and Ribivarin Combination
In addition to the side effects due to interferon described above,
ribavirin can cause serious anemia (low red blood cell count) and can be
a serious problem for persons with conditions that cause anemia, such as
kidney failure. In these persons, combination therapy should be avoided
or attempts should be made to correct the anemia. Anemia caused by
ribavirin can be life-threatening for persons with certain types of
heart or blood vessel disease. Ribavirin causes birth defects and
pregnancy should be avoided during treatment. Patients and their
healthcare providers should carefully review the product manufacturer
information prior to treatment.