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A short, effective therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could decrease barriers to implementation and uptake, reduce dropout, and ameliorate distressing symptoms in military personnel and veterans. This non-inferiority RCT evaluated the efficacy of 2-week massed prolonged exposure (MPE) therapy compared to standard 10-week prolonged exposure (SPE), the current gold standard treatment, in reducing PTSD severity in both active serving and veterans in a real-world health service system.
This single-blinded multi-site non-inferiority RCT took place in 12 health clinics across Australia. The primary outcome was PTSD symptom severity measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5) at 12 weeks. 138 military personnel and veterans with PTSD were randomised. 71 participants were allocated to SPE, with 63 allocated to MPE.
The intention-to-treat sample included 138 participants, data were analysed for 134 participants (88.1% male, M = 46 years). The difference between the mean MPE and SPE group PTSD scores from baseline to 12 weeks-post therapy was 0.94 [95% confidence interval (CI) −4.19 to +6.07]. The upper endpoint of the 95% CI was below +7, indicating MPE was non-inferior to SPE. Significant rates of loss of PTSD diagnosis were found for both groups (MPE 53.8%, SPE 54.1%). Dropout rates were 4.8% (MPE) and 16.9% (SPE).
MPE was non-inferior to SPE in significantly reducing symptoms of PTSD. Significant reductions in symptom severity, low dropout rates, and loss of diagnosis indicate MPE is a feasible, accessible, and effective treatment. Findings demonstrate novel methods to deliver gold-standard treatments for PTSD should be routinely considered.
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