Acupuncture for Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial
J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(11):1665-1673
© Copyright 2017 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Objective: To assess the efficacy of
acupuncture as an intervention for major
depressive disorder (MDD).
Method: Acupuncture was examined in
151 patients with MDD (DSM-IV) who were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups in a
double-blind randomized controlled trial. The specific
intervention involved Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-style acupuncture with manual
stimulation for depression; the control conditions
consisted of (1) a nonspecific intervention using
a comparable number of legitimate acupuncture points not specifically targeted to
depressive symptoms and (2) a waitlist condition, which
involved waiting without intervention for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, all patients received the
depression-specific acupuncture. Each 8-week
intervention regimen consisted of 12 acupuncture
sessions delivered in an acupuncturist's office in the
community. The primary outcome measure was the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for
Depression. The study was conducted from February 1998
to April 2002.
Results: Twenty patients terminated
treatment before the completion of the 8-week
intervention (13%) but not differentially by study group.
Random regression models of the intent-to-treat sample revealed that although patients
receiving acupuncture improved more than those
awaiting intervention, no evidence of differential
efficacy of the depression-specific over nonspecific
intervention was found. Response rates in acupuncture-treated patients were relatively low after
8 weeks (22% and 39% for specific and nonspecific intervention groups, respectively), with the
response rate after the entire 16-week trial
Conclusion: Although TCM manual
acupuncture is a well-tolerated intervention, results fail
to support its efficacy as a monotherapy for MDD.
It can't be ruled out that factors unique to the
implementation of acupuncture in this research
study may have limited the efficacy of
interventions compared to those provided in naturalistic
Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT00010517.