The randomized controlled trial revealed that both treatments offered a statistically significant reduction of symptoms when added to typical treatment in patients with recurring bouts of depression at three months.
“We have provided evidence that acupuncture versus usual care, and counseling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events,” said the investigators, led by Hugh MacPherson, Ph.D., University of York in the United Kingdom.
According to the researchers, up to 60 percent of patients with depression have an inadequate response to antidepressants, and 30 percent do not stick to their medication regimen. They also note that there is a growing patient demand for non-pharmacologic treatment options.
For the study, the investigators wanted to observe the clinical effectiveness of short sessions of either acupuncture or counseling compared with usual care for patients with moderate to severe depression in a primary care setting.
The randomized, controlled trial included 755 depressed patients who were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 study groups in a ratio of 2:2:1 to acupuncture plus usual care, counseling plus usual care, or usual care alone.
Study subjects received 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care, 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care, or usual care alone.
The results revealed that compared with usual care, there was a statistically significant reduction in mean depression scores at three months for acupuncture and counseling.
At 12 months, there was no significant difference between acupuncture and counseling compared with usual care.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to rigorously evaluate the clinical and economic impact of acupuncture and counseling for patients in primary care who are representative of those who continue to experience depression in primary care,” said the authors.
They note that more research is needed to figure out the optimal treatment plan for acupuncture and counseling in patients with depression.
“Although these findings are encouraging, our study does not identify which aspects of acupuncture and counseling are likely to be most beneficial to patients, nor does it provide information about the effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling compared with usual care for patients with mild depression,” said MacPherson.
Source: PLoS Medicine