This study evaluates the addition of duloxetine to aerobic exercise in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis and depressive symptoms in adults. All participants will receive the receive the treatment protocol, which will first be evaluated in terms of feasibility and then pilot tested.



Eligible Ages
Over 40 Years
Eligible Genders
Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion Criteria

  1. English speaking 2. 40 years or older 3. Symptomatic knee osteoarthritis fulfilling 1986 American College of Rheumatology criteria 4. No plan for surgical knee osteoarthritis intervention within six months of enrollment 5. Major depressive disorder satisfying diagnostic criteria according to the DSM-V 6. Ability to participate in a supervised aerobic exercise program

Exclusion Criteria

  1. Already performing aerobic or resistive exercise 2x/week or more 2. Taking duloxetine, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, or opioid analgesics 3. Other medications deemed by study team to endanger the health of the participant or unduly confound the results 4. Cognitive impairment (Mini-Mental State Examination score < 20) 5. Past or current bipolar disorder or psychotic symptoms according to the DSM-V 6. Substance abuse disorder or suicidal ideation within the previous year 7. Not able to participate in a supervised exercise program based on the presence of unstable angina, recent MI (within last 3 months), hemiparetic gait, inability to walk at least 1mph on treadmill safely, poorly controlled hypertension (resting blood pressure > 190/110), peripheral arterial disease with current foot or leg ulcers, or cardiac or pulmonary disease with exercise tolerance NYHA class 3 or higher. 8. Active cancer that is currently undergoing treatment (receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy) 9. Pregnant or lactating women 10. Other conditions deemed by study team to endanger the health of the participant or unduly confound the results

Study Design

Phase 2
Study Type
Intervention Model
Single Group Assignment
Primary Purpose
None (Open Label)

Arm Groups

ArmDescriptionAssigned Intervention
Aerobic exercise plus Duloxetine
Participants will have a starting duloxetine dosage of 30 mg/day and be titrated up to a daily optimal dosage of 60 mg/day as tolerated during the first 12-weeks of the study. Twelve weeks after the receipt of their prescription, participants will be evaluated for the need to increase medication dosage to 90 mg/day. After duloxetine initiation, participants will be provided an exercise prescription that includes a progressive walking program aiming to achieve 50 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, three times per week, over 24 weeks.
  • Behavioral: Aerobic exercise
    Participants with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis and depressive symptoms will be enrolled in a progressive walking program designed to reduce pain and disability and improve psychosocial health.
  • Drug: Duloxetine
    Duloxetine is an FDA-approved selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant approved for the treatment of neuropathic pain in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis as well as depression in adults. Participants with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis and depressive symptoms will receive duloxetine to decrease pain and depression severity to enhance their ability to engage in aerobic exercise.

Recruiting Locations

More Details

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Study Contact

Alan M Rathbun, PhD, MPH

Detailed Description

Symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) affects 10% of men and 13% of women 60 years or older, and depressive symptoms are common, occurring in one-fifth of these patients. Depressive symptoms worsen knee OA disease severity and are a barrier to pain management and engagement in physical activity. Guidelines recommend depression treatment in older adults with knee OA but provide no direction on how to simultaneously manage the co-occurrence of physical and mental morbidity. Treatment recommendations advise exercise to manage pain and disability and improve psychosocial health in knee OA patients; however, compliance to exercise programs is low in persons with chronic pain and disability and is only made worse by comorbid depression. Adherence is critical to the efficacy of depression treatments using exercise training, and no such exercise program has ever been designed for and tested in OA patients with co-occurring depressive symptoms in a way to enhance compliance. Duloxetine is the only antidepressant medication indicated for pain management in knee OA patients that has demonstrated efficacy and tolerability when treating depression in older adults and is a viable pharmacological complement to exercise. There are no protocols that combine treatments using interventions that affect symptoms of both knee OA and depression, and the study goals are to evaluate the feasibility of and then pilot test a protocol comprised of aerobic exercise training plus duloxetine for the treatment of symptomatic knee OA and comorbid depression.


Study information shown on this site is derived from ClinicalTrials.gov (a public registry operated by the National Institutes of Health). The listing of studies provided is not certain to be all studies for which you might be eligible. Furthermore, study eligibility requirements can be difficult to understand and may change over time, so it is wise to speak with your medical care provider and individual research study teams when making decisions related to participation.