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An online programme to reduce depression in patients with multiple sclerosis: a randomised controlled trial

Anja Fischer, Johanna Schröder, Eik Vettorazzi, Oliver T Wolf, Jana Pöttgen, et al.

The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 2, Issue 3, March 2015, Pages 217-223

Summary

Background

With a lifetime risk for major depressive disorder of up to 50%, depression is a common comorbidity in multiple sclerosis but remains widely underdiagnosed and untreated. We investigated the potential of a fully automated, internet-based, cognitive behavioural therapy programme, Deprexis, to reduce depressive symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Methods

For this randomised controlled trial, we recruited patients from an outpatient clinic in Hamburg, Germany. Patients aged 18–65 years were eligible for inclusion if they had multiple sclerosis and self-reported depressive symptoms. By use of a computer-generated randomisation sequence, we allocated 90 patients (1:1; no blocking or stratification) to either the intervention group or a waitlist control group for 9 weeks. The primary endpoint was the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), as assessed by an intention-to-treat analysis. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01663649.

Findings

71 patients completed the trial: 35 patients in the intervention group and 36 patients in the control group. During the intervention, BDI scores decreased in the Deprexis group and increased in the control group, yielding a positive effect of Deprexis relative to the waitlist group (mean group difference −4·02 points [95% CI −7·26 to −0·79], p=0·015, effect size d=0·53). Worsening of depressive symptoms from below to above the clinical cutoff (BDI >13) occurred in three (7%) of 45 patients in the control group and no patients in the Deprexis group. We noted no adverse events with respect to new occurrence of suicidal ideation during the trial.

Interpretation

Psychological online-intervention programmes could be suitable for patients with multiple sclerosis who are unable to regularly attend therapeutic sessions because of mobility impairments.

Funding

European Union and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

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Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

Journal Editor's choice

Recommended by Prof. Brenda Banwell

Causes of death among persons with multiple sclerosis

Gary R. Cutter, Jeffrey Zimmerman, Amber R. Salter, et al.

Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, September 2015, Vol 4 Issue 5