PHARMACEUTICAL treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are limited in both number and efficacy, despite a high incidence, particularly amongst military veterans. This led co-principal investigator and senior author Jaimie Gradus, Boston University School of Public Health, Massachusetts, USA, and colleagues, to undertake new research following-up on previous data describing an association between antiviral drugs used to treat hepatitis C and PTSD symptom improvement.
In this new study, data from 254 patients diagnosed with both PTSD and hepatitis C between October 1999 and September 2019, at the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Vermont, New England, USA, were reviewed to evaluate this association further. Participants received a combination of either glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (GLE/PIB), ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, or sofosbuvir and velpatasvir. Both hepatitis C virus and PTSD symptoms were monitored at two clinical visits, which took place over an 8–12 week period.
After adjusting for confounding variables such as opioid use, other hepatic diagnoses, and emergency psychiatric care, the researchers identified that those treated with a combination of GLE/PIB displayed higher levels of PTSD symptom improvement. Gradus commented that: “The level of improvement we see for GLE/PIB is impressive and over twice what we have seen for paroxetine and sertraline.”
Looking towards the future, Gradus discussed the importance of and need for prospective placebo-controlled studies in patients without hepatitis C virus infection, and co-principal investigator Brian Shiner Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA, and White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, added: “We recently received funding from the Department of Defense to study GLE/PIB as a potential treatment for PTSD in a prospective randomised placebo-controlled trial.”
This is important, because although existing treatments such as psychotherapy work well, Gradus reports challenges with ‘treatment drop-out’, and given that current pharmacotherapies are limited, adding to the treatment repertoire is a high priority. Whilst further research is required, this study provides hope for a potential, alternative therapeutic treatment for those living with PTSD.