A pilot study of acupuncture augmentation therapy in antidepressant partial and non-responders with major depressive disorder

Albert S. Yeung, Victoria E. Ameral, Sarah E. Chuzi, Maurizio Fava, David Mischoulon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background:: Acupuncture is widely used for treating major depressive disorder (MDD). There is evidence supporting acupuncture as an antidepressant monotherapy, but its efficacy as augmentation in antidepressant partial and non-responders has not been well-investigated. Methods:: Thirty subjects (47% female, mean age 48 ± 11 years) with a history of SCID-diagnosed MDD and partial or non-response after ≥ 8 weeks of antidepressant therapy were assigned 8 weeks of standardized 30-min open acupuncture augmentation sessions on a weekly (n = 24) or twice-weekly (n = 6) basis. Change in the Hamilton-D-17 score was the primary outcome measure, and response rates (based on HAM-D-17 score improvement of ≥ 50%) the secondary outcome. Results:: Twenty subjects (40% female; 18 in weekly and 2 in twice-weekly treatment) completed the study. In the intent-to-treat (ITT) sample (N = 30), HAM-D-17 scores decreased from 18.5 ± 3.8 to 11.2 ± 5.3 in the weekly group (p < 0.001), and from 18.5 ± 3.3 to 11.8 ± 4.8 in the twice-weekly group (p = 0.03). Improvement did not differ significantly between treatment arms (p = 0.76). Response rates were 47% for all ITT subjects, 50% for the weekly group and 33% for the twice-weekly group (p = 0.66). The most common side effects included soreness/pain (n = 7), bruising (n = 4), and mild bleeding (n = 1) at the needle site. One subject discontinued because of side effects (pain). Limitations:: Open design, small sample, polypharmacy with antidepressants. Conclusions:: Once or twice-weekly acupuncture augmentation was safe, well-tolerated and effective in antidepressant partial and non-responders, suggesting good feasibility in outpatient settings. Replication in controlled trials is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-289
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Acupuncture
  • Antidepressant
  • Augmentation
  • Depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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