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Keywords:

  • combined treatment;
  • depression;
  • major depression disorder;
  • meta-analysis;
  • pharmacotherapy;
  • psychotherapy;
  • psychological treatment

Cuijpers P, van Straten A, Hollon SD, Andersson G. The contribution of active medication to combined treatments of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for adult depression: a meta-analysis.

Objective:  Although there is sufficient evidence that combined treatments of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy are more effective for depression in adults than each of the treatments alone, it remains unclear what the exact contribution of active medication is to the overall effects of combined treatments. This paper examines the contribution of active medication to combined psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy treatments.

Method:  Meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials comparing the combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy with the combination of psychotherapy and placebo.

Results:  Sixteen identified studies involving 852 patients met our inclusion criteria. The standardised mean difference indicating the differences between the combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy and the combination of psychotherapy and placebo was 0.25 (95% CI: 0.03–0.46), which corresponds to a numbers-needed-to-be-treated of 7.14. No significant differences between subgroups of studies were found.

Conclusion:  Active medication has a small but significant contribution to the overall efficacy of combined treatments.