Background: OnabotulinumtoxinA is a novel therapeutic intervention whose mechanism of action is believed to modify the negative facial feedback, thus abating symptoms of depression. This putative new antidepressant agent offers minimal systemic side effects and negligible risk of pharmacological interactions. We set out to examine the evidence for the use of onabotulinumtoxinA in major depression. Methods: A systematic search of the literature identified double-blind randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the use of onabotulinumtoxinA in the treatment of major depression versus placebo. Data, reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA), was combined in meta-analyses (PROSPERO registration ID: CRD42020183538). Results: The search identified five RCTs (four double-blind) comparing onabotulinumtoxinA to placebo. OnabotulinumtoxinA was more effective than placebo when administered within the 20–40 IU dose range in double-blind RCTs. The analysis was free of publication bias and significantly heterogeneous. Meta-regression analyses indicated that onabotulinumtoxinA was more efficacious in women and in higher doses in female patients and less effective with polypharmacy, especially when an increasing number of antidepressants were prescribed. The effectiveness of onabotulinumtoxinA was higher in more recently published double-blind RCTs. Conclusion: The meta-analysis supports the efficacy of the intervention with the results being highly heterogeneous across studies. In view of the heterogeneity of the findings and the significant moderators of benefit (sex, year of study completion and the interaction between sex and dose), more research is required to better understand the role of onabotulinumtoxinA in the treatment of depression.
- double-blind randomised controlled trial
- major depression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Pharmacology (medical)