Online Program Reduces Depression in People with MS in New Study Funded by National MS Society
September 27, 2023
Online cognitive behavioral therapy significantly reduced depression in a study of 279 people with MS. Research findings like these are necessary to encourage access and insurance coverage of these kind of treatment strategies. Meanwhile, see below for strategies you can use to identify and address depression.
- Background: Depression is a common symptom experienced by people living with MS. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing negative patterns of thought and altering unhelpful behaviors, is one strategy for addressing depression. However, it may be difficult for people to access it.
In a previous study, Dr. Stefan Gold (Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany) conducted a small trial using an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy program to reduce depression in people with MS. The team’s preliminary results suggested that this program, called “Deprexis," may reduce depression in MS.
- This Study: The team sought to test Amira (a program based on Deprexis) in a larger study to validate the findings. With funding from the National MS Society, they conducted a trial involving 279 people with MS and depressive symptoms at five centers in Germany and the United States.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive Amira as a standalone program or guided by a therapist, or to a control group receiving no program. Those in the control group were offered access to Amira after 6 months. The primary endpoint of the study was to determine whether Amira reduced the severity of depressive symptoms significantly more than those receiving no treatment. Quality of life changes were also measured.
- Results: Use of the Amira program resulted in a significant reduction of depressive symptoms after 12 weeks. Quality of life improved significantly as well. These benefits were maintained at 6 and 12 months after the program. No safety concerns were raised. The results did not differ significantly between the standalone version or the one guided by a therapist.
- Why does this matter? Although no treatment completely cures depression, this program is an option to consider and especially if in person care is not available. Research like this to validate a program’s benefits is an important step toward getting coverage by health insurers. There are strategies you can take now to determine if you have depression, and to treat it – please see below.
“Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy programme to reduce depressive symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis: a multicentre, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial
,” by Stefan M Gold, Tim Friede, Björn Meyer, Rona Moss-Morris, Joanna Hudson, Susanna Asseyer, Judith Bellmann-Strobl, Andreas Leisdon, Leonie Ißels, Kristin Ritter, David Schymainski, Hayley Pomeroy, Sharon G Lynch, Julia S Cozart, Joan Thelen, Cristina A F Román, Margaret Cadden, Erin Guty, Stephanie Lau, Jana Pöttgen, Caren Ramien, Susan Seddiq-Zai, Anna-Maria Kloidt, Johannes Wieditz, Iris-Katharina Penner, Friedemann Paul, Nancy L Sicotte, Jared M Bruce, Peter A Arnett, and Christoph Heesen is published in The Lancet Digital Health
(published online September 27, 2023).