Open Access Study protocol

Study protocol of the Diabetes and Depression Study (DAD): a multi-center randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of a diabetes-specific cognitive behavioral group therapy versus sertraline in patients with major depression and poorly controlled diabetes mellitus

Frank Petrak1*, Stephan Herpertz1, Christian Albus2, Norbert Hermanns3, Christoph Hiemke4, Wolfgang Hiller5, Kai Kronfeld6, Johannes Kruse7, Bernd Kulzer3, Christian Ruckes6 and Matthias J Müller8

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, LWL-University Clinic Bochum, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany

2 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany

3 Diabetes Center Mergentheim, Bad Mergentheim, Germany

4 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Centre, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany

5 Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany

6 Interdisciplinary Centre for Clinical Trials Mainz (IZKS Mainz), University Medical Centre, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany

7 Clinic for Psychosomatic and Psychotherapy, University Clinic Gießen/Marburg, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, Marburg, Germany

8 Vitos Clinical Centre Gießen-Marburg and Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, Marburg, Germany

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:206  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-206

Published: 6 August 2013



Depression is common in diabetes and associated with hyperglycemia, diabetes related complications and mortality. No single intervention has been identified that consistently leads to simultaneous improvement of depression and glycemic control. Our aim is to analyze the efficacy of a diabetes-specific cognitive behavioral group therapy (CBT) compared to sertraline (SER) in adults with depression and poorly controlled diabetes.


This study is a multi-center parallel arm randomized controlled trial currently in its data analysis phase. We included 251 patients in 70 secondary care centers across Germany. Key inclusion criteria were: type 1 or 2 diabetes, major depression (diagnosed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, SCID) and hemoglobin A1C >7.5% despite current insulin therapy. During the initial phase, patients received either 50–200 mg/d sertraline or 10 CBT sessions aiming at the remission of depression and enhanced adherence to diabetes treatment and coping with diabetes. Both groups received diabetes treatment as usual. After 12 weeks of this initial open-label therapy, only the treatment-responders (50% depression symptoms reduction, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17-item version [HAMD]) were included in the subsequent one year study phase and represented the primary analysis population. CBT-responders received no further treatment, while SER-responders obtained a continuous, flexible-dose SER regimen as relapse prevention. Adherence to treatment was analyzed using therapeutic drug monitoring (measurement of sertraline and N-desmethylsertraline concentrations in blood serum) and by counting the numbers of CBT sessions received. Outcome assessments were conducted by trained psychologists blinded to group assignment. Group differences in HbA1c (primary outcome) and depression (HAMD, secondary outcome) between 1-year follow-up and baseline will be analyzed by ANCOVA controlling for baseline values. As primary hypothesis we expect that CBT leads to significantly greater improvement of glycemic control in the one year follow-up in treatment responders of the short term phase.


The DAD study is the first randomized controlled trial comparing antidepressants to a psychological treatment in diabetes patients with depression.

The study is investigator initiated and was supported by the ‘Förderprogramm Klinische Studien (Clinical Trials)’ and the ‘Competence Network for Diabetes mellitus’ funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (FKZ 01KG0505).

Trial registration

Current controlled trials ISRCTN89333241.