Objective To assess the effectiveness of acupuncture combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for patients with depression in hospital using a pragmatic randomised controlled trial.
Methods 76 patients with depression were randomly divided into two groups (randomisation ratio 2:1 for treatment and control groups (CGs), respectively) and 71 patients completed the study. The 45 patients in the treatment group (TG) underwent acupuncture and received an SSRI and the 26 patients in the CG received an SSRI only. The 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17) was used to quantitatively assess patients after 1, 2, 4 and 6 weeks of treatment.
The mean (SD) baseline total HDRS scores were 22.2 (0.60) and 22.1 (0.33) in the TG and CG, respectively. After the first week of treatment the HDRS score for the TG was reduced to 15.6 (0.81), significantly different from the score of 18.3 (0.55) for the CG, p<0.05. This significant difference was maintained to the end of the 6-week treatment period, when HDRS scores had fallen to 6.3 (0.49) and 8.2 (0.35) for the TG and CG, respectively.
Conclusions Acupuncture combined with an SSRI showed a statistically significant benefit for patients with depression in hospital over the 6-week period compared with SSRIs alone. This reduction in symptoms started in the first week and continued throughout the 6 weeks of treatment.