Background: Meta-analyses of several randomized controlled trials have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has comparable efficacy to antidepressant medication, but therapist availability and cost-effectiveness is a problem. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of Web-based CBT blended with face-to-face sessions that reduce therapist time in patients with major depression who were unresponsive to antidepressant medications. Methods: A 12-week, assessor-masked, parallel-group, waiting- list controlled, randomized trial was conducted at 3 medical institutions in Tokyo. Outpatients aged 20-65 years with a primary diagnosis of major depression who were taking ≥1 antidepressant medications at an adequate dose for ≥6 weeks and had a 17-item GRID-Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) score of ≥14 were randomly assigned (1:1) to blended CBT or waiting-list groups using a computer allocation system, stratified by the study site with the minimization method, to balance age and baseline GRID-HAMD score. The CBT intervention was given in a combined format, comprising a Web-based program and 12 45-minute face-to-face sessions. Thus, across 12 weeks, a participant could receive up to 540 minutes of contact with a therapist, which is approximately two-thirds of the therapist contact time provided in the conventional CBT protocol, which typically provides 16 50-minute sessions. The primary outcome was the alleviation of depressive symptoms, as measured by a change in the total GRID-HAMD score from baseline (at randomization) to posttreatment (at 12 weeks). Moreover, in an exploratory analysis, we investigated whether the expected positive effects of the intervention were sustained during follow-up, 3 months after the posttreatment assessment. Analyses were performed on an intention-to-treat basis, and the primary outcome was analyzed using a mixed-effects model for repeated measures. Results: We randomized 40 participants to either blended CBT (n=20) or waiting-list (n=20) groups. All patients completed the 12-week treatment protocol and were included in the intention-to-treat analyses. Participants in the blended CBT group had significantly alleviated depressive symptoms at week 12, as shown by greater least squares mean changes in the GRID-HAMD score, than those in the waiting list group (−8.9 points vs −3.0 points; mean between-group difference=−5.95; 95% CI −9.53 to −2.37; P<.001). The follow-up effects within the blended CBT group, as measured by the GRID-HAMD score, were sustained at the 3-month follow-up (week 24) and posttreatment (week 12): posttreatment, 9.4 (SD 5.2), versus follow-up, 7.2 (SD 5.7); P=.009. Conclusions: Although our findings warrant confirmation in larger and longer term studies with active controls, these suggest that a combined form of CBT is effective in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with major depression who are unresponsive to antidepressant medications.
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