Condition category
Mental and Behavioural Disorders
Date applied
Date assigned
Last edited
Retrospectively registered
Overall trial status
Recruitment status
No longer recruiting
Publication status

Plain English Summary

Not provided at time of registration

Trial website

Contact information



Primary contact

Dr Hugh MacPherson


Contact details

Complementary Medicine Research Group
Seebohm Rowntree Building Area 3
University of York
YO10 5DD
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1904 321394

Additional identifiers

EudraCT number number

Protocol/serial number


Study information

Scientific title

Acupuncture, Counselling, and Usual GP care for Depression (ACUDep): a randomised controlled trial to evaluate effectiveness and cost-effectiveness



Study hypothesis

The primary aim is to determine the clinical and cost effectiveness of short courses of either acupuncture or counselling for depression when compared to usual GP care. A secondary aim is to determine whether acupuncture is more effective than counselling, and to explore patients' experiences of these two interventions for comparative purposes.

Please note, as of 12/04/2011 the anticipated end date for this trial has been updated from 30/09/2013 to 11/04/2011 as recruitment was completed earlier than expected. Follow up data is now being collected.

Ethics approval

York Research Ethics Committee, Learning and Research Centre approved on the 1st October 2009 (ref: 09/H1311/75)

Study design

Randomised three-arm active controlled parallel group trial

Primary study design


Secondary study design

Randomised controlled trial

Trial setting


Trial type


Patient information sheet

Not available in web format, please contact Karen Overend [] to request a patient information sheet




Patients allocated to the acupuncture and counselling groups will receive the offer of 12 sessions on a weekly basis.

The participating acupuncturists will be members of the British Acupuncture Council who have been qualified for at least three years. The acupuncture treatments will be performed according to a treatment protocol already developed for this purpose and tested in our pilot. This will allow for each patient having a customised treatment within a standardised theory-driven framework.

Counselling will be provided by members of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy using primarily a non-directive approach. A manualised protocol, which was developed for the pilot, will set the parameters for the counselling. Counsellors will use empathy and advanced listening skills to help clients express feelings, clarify thoughts, and reframe difficulties, but they will not give advice or set homework.

Usual GP care will continue to be available to all patients according to need, and will be monitored in all three groups for comparative purposes.

Intervention type



Not Specified

Drug names

Primary outcome measure

The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) at three months, with an evaluation of whether there is an overall benefit over the twelve months. We will use the correlation between the PHQ-9 and Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) at baseline and 12 months to determine equivalent BDI-II scores at subsequent timepoints.

Secondary outcome measures

1. SF-36 Bodily Pain Subscale
2. EQ-5D
3. CARE (Consultational and Relational Empathy measure)
4. We will also collect data on NHS resource use and patients' private costs

Overall trial start date


Overall trial end date


Reason abandoned (if study stopped)


Participant inclusion criteria

1. Patients over 18 who have consulted their GP for depression
2. Participants must also be still be depressed at the time of recruitment, with a score of 20 or above on the Beck Depression Inventory-II

Participant type


Age group




Target number of participants


Participant exclusion criteria

1. Patients who are receiving acupuncture or counselling sessions
2. Terminal illness
3. Haemophilia
4. Hepatitis
5. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
6. Pregnancy
7. Confounding psychiatric condition:
7.1. Bipolar disorder
7.2. Postpartum depression
7.3. Adjustment disorder
7.4. Psychosis
7.5. Personality disorder
8. Suffered a close personal bereavement
9. Given birth during the previous 12 months
10. Because of the specific demands of this study in terms of the need to fully comprehend detailed information, to complete questionnaires, to understand and converse readily with English speaking acupuncturists and counsellors, and to permit physical contact, we intend to exclude patients who have a significant learning disability, who are unable to converse in English, or who have dementia

Recruitment start date


Recruitment end date



Countries of recruitment

United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

Complementary Medicine Research Group
YO10 5DD
United Kingdom

Sponsor information


University of York (UK)

Sponsor details

c/o Mrs S Final
YO10 5DD
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1904 430000

Sponsor type




Funder type


Funder name

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (UK) - Programme Grants

Alternative name(s)

Funding Body Type

Funding Body Subtype


Results and Publications

Publication and dissemination plan

Not provided at time of registration

Intention to publish date

Participant level data

Not provided at time of registration

Basic results (scientific)

Publication list

2013 results in:
2014 results in:

Publication citations

  1. Results

    MacPherson H, Richmond S, Bland M, Brealey S, Gabe R, Hopton A, Keding A, Lansdown H, Perren S, Sculpher M, Spackman E, Torgerson D, Watt I, Acupuncture and counselling for depression in primary care: a randomised controlled trial., PLoS Med., 2013, 10, 9, e1001518, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001518.

  2. Results

    Hopton A, Eldred J, MacPherson H, Patients' experiences of acupuncture and counselling for depression and comorbid pain: a qualitative study nested within a randomised controlled trial., BMJ Open, 2014, 4, 6, e005144, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005144.

Additional files

Editorial Notes