Cognitive behavioural therapy as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy for primary care based patients with treatment resistant depression: results of the CoBalT randomised controlled trial

Nicola J Wiles, Laura J Thomas, A Abel, N Ridgway, Nicholas L Turner, J Campbell, A Garland, Sandra P Hollinghurst, B Jerrom, David S Kessler, W Kuyken, J Morrison, Katrina M Turner, C Williams, Tim J Peters, Glyn H Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

253 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Only a third of patients with depression respond fully to antidepressant medication but little evidence exists regarding the best next-step treatment for those whose symptoms are treatment resistant. The CoBalT trial aimed to examine the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as an adjunct to usual care (including pharmacotherapy) for primary care patients with treatment resistant depression compared with usual care alone.

METHODS: This two parallel-group multicentre randomised controlled trial recruited 469 patients aged 18-75 years with treatment resistant depression (on antidepressants for ≥6 weeks, Beck depression inventory [BDI] score ≥14 and international classification of diseases [ICD]-10 criteria for depression) from 73 UK general practices. Participants were randomised, with a computer generated code (stratified by centre and minimised according to baseline BDI score, whether the general practice had a counsellor, previous treatment with antidepressants, and duration of present episode of depression) to one of two groups: usual care or CBT in addition to usual care, and were followed up for 12 months. Because of the nature of the intervention it was not possible to mask participants, general practitioners, CBT therapists, or researchers to the treatment allocation. Analyses were by intention to treat. The primary outcome was response, defined as at least 50% reduction in depressive symptoms (BDI score) at 6 months compared with baseline. This trial is registered, ISRCTN38231611.

FINDINGS: Between Nov 4, 2008, and Sept 30, 2010, we assigned 235 patients to usual care, and 234 to CBT plus usual care. 422 participants (90%) were followed up at 6 months and 396 (84%) at 12 months, finishing on Oct 31, 2011. 95 participants (46%) in the intervention group met criteria for response at 6 months compared with 46 (22%) in the usual care group (odds ratio 3·26, 95% CI 2·10-5·06, p<0·001).

INTERPRETATION: Before this study, no evidence from large-scale randomised controlled trials was available for the effectiveness of augmentation of antidepressant medication with CBT as a next-step for patients whose depression has not responded to pharmacotherapy. Our study has provided robust evidence that CBT as an adjunct to usual care that includes antidepressants is an effective treatment, reducing depressive symptoms in this population.

FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
Issue number9864
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Treatment Outcome


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