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Acupuncture for Depression Project

This research project is a collaboration involving the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York where the Research Director holds a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded Career Scientist Award. The aim of the research is to determine whether acupuncture has a potential role as a treatment modality for depression in primary care.  

Initially a small study was conducted by the Foundation, an uncontrolled case series of 10 patients (MacPherson et al 2004).  

We have also designed and assessed an acupuncture trial treatment protocol using the Nominal Group Technique. This protocol was designed to combine sufficient standardisation to allow replicability, with legitimate flexibility to accommodate expected patient variability (MacPherson& Schroer 2007).

Subsequently we conducted a 40 patient pilot to explore features required for design and implementation of a full-scale randomised controlled trial of acupuncture for depression. This was a three arm trial comparing acupuncture vs. counselling vs. usual GP care alone (Schroer & MacPherson 2009).

In April 2009 National Institute for Health Research Programme Grant for Applied Research of £1,300,000 has been awarded to Hugh MacPherson at the University of York, and this programme of research includes a trial of acupuncture and counselling for depression. The trial will commence late in 2009 and will take three years to complete.


Key publications:

Smith CA, Hay PPJ, MacPherson H. Acupuncture for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004046. doi:
10.1002/14651858.CD004046.pub3 http://www.mrw.interscience.wiley.com/cochrane/

Schroer S, MacPherson H. Acupuncture, or non-directive counselling versus usual care for the treatment of depression: a pilot study. Trials, 2009; 10:3 [Full text]

Schroer S, MacPherson H, Adamson J, Designing an RCT of acupuncture for depression--identifying appropriate patient groups: a qualitative study. Fam Pract 2009, doi:10.1093/fampra/cmp021.

MacPherson H, Schroer S. Acupuncture as a complex intervention for depression: a consensus method to develop a standardised treatment protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2007; 15(2): 92-100.

MacPherson H, Thorpe L, Thomas K. "Acupuncture for depression: first steps in a clinical evaluation."  Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 2004; 10(6): 1083-1091.

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