Archive for September 30th, 2013

September 30, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

New research into acupuncture and counselling for depression from Dr Hugh Macpherson at The University of York has led to some interesting conclusions by research scientists on the value of adding acupuncture to the standard care of patients suffering with depression.

The researchers recruited 755 patients who had consulted their doctor about depression within the past 5 years and who fell into the category of having moderate to severe depression.

302 patients were randomized to receive up to 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care, another 302 patients received up to 12 weekly sessions of counselling plus usual care, and 151 patients received usual care alone. Both the acupuncture protocol and the counselling protocols allowed for some individualization of treatment. Usual care, including antidepressants, was available according to need and monitored in all three groups.

According to the researchers, compared to usual care alone, there was a significant reduction in the average depression scores at both 3 and 6 months for both the acupuncture and counselling interventions. The difference between the score for acupuncture and counselling was not significant. In addition the researchers noted that at 9 months and 12 months, the scores between all groups evened out so that acupuncture and counselling were no longer significantly better than usual care.

All of this led the researchers to conclude that this was the first study to rigorously evaluate the clinical and economic impact of acupuncture and counselling for patients in primary care, and that their research showed that acupuncture versus usual care and counselling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, without being associated with serious adverse effects.

The research received wide ranging media coverage from The Daily Mail’s article on acupuncture for depression, to Reuter’s coverage of the article here, and the original research piece on PLOS medicine can be found here:

Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial