Role of Botulinum Toxin in Depression

J Psychiatr Pract. 2016 Mar;22(2):99-110. doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000136.


Objective: The goal of this review was to consolidate the evidence concerning the efficacy of botulinum toxin type A (onabotulinumtoxinA) in depression.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, and Scopus through May 5, 2014, for studies evaluating the efficacy of botulinum toxin A in depression. Only randomized controlled trials were included in the meta-analysis. A pooled mean difference in primary depression score, and pooled odds ratio for response and remission rate with 95% confidence interval (CI) were estimated using the random-effects model. Heterogeneity was assessed using Cochran Q test and χ statistic.

Results: Of the 639 articles that were initially retrieved, 5 studies enrolling 194 subjects (age 49±9.6 y) were included in the systematic review, and 3 randomized controlled trials enrolling 134 subjects were included in the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis showed a significant decrease in mean primary depression scores among patients who received botulinum toxin A compared with placebo (-9.80; 95% CI, -12.90 to -6.69) with modest heterogeneity between the studies (Cochran Q test, χ=70). Response and remission rates were 8.3 and 4.6 times higher, respectively, among patients receiving botulinum toxin A compared with placebo, with no heterogeneity between the studies. The 2 studies excluded from the meta-analysis also found a significant decrease in primary depression scores in patients after receiving botulinum toxin A. A few subjects had minor side effects, which were similar between the groups receiving botulinum toxin and those receiving placebo.

Conclusions: This study suggests that botulinum toxin A can produce significant improvement in depressive symptoms and is a safe adjunctive treatment for patients receiving pharmacotherapy for depression. Future trials are needed to evaluate the antidepressant effect per se of botulinum toxin A and to further elucidate the underlying antidepressant mechanism of botulinum toxin A.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / administration & dosage
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A