Tag: placebo effect

Reading of the Week: No Better Than Placebo? Debating Antidepressants and ECT, with Papers from Psychological Medicine

From the Editor

Antidepressants don’t work. Medications fail to address the real cause of depression. ECT is basically a placebo.

These statements are controversial, but they are mentioned often – including by some of our patients. But what does the literature say about depression management? This week, we look at the debate over antidepressants and ECT, drawing on two recent papers from Psychological Medicine.

In the first selection, John Read (of the University of East London) and Dr. Joanna Moncrieff (of University College) argue that our approach to depression is flawed. In a longer paper that draws on more than 120 references, they challenge basic assumptions about mental health care, arguing against antidepressants and ECT. They advocate for an alternative: “Understanding depression and anxiety as emotional reactions to life circumstances, rather than the manifestations of supposed brain pathology, demands a combination of political action and common sense.”

Were Ali and Frazier having a fight over depression management?

In the other selection, Dr. Carmine M. Pariante (of the King’s College London) agrees to disagree. In a Psychological Medicine paper, he responds. “I have written a piece that tries to put together their point of view with the available evidence, while acknowledging the complexity of the debate.” 


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Reading of the Week: The Placebo Effect and Antidepressants

From the Editor

Is the placebo effect getting stronger with time?

image001Placebo pills – greater importance?

Since the first writings of English physician John Haygarth at the turn of the 19th century, the placebo effect is something well documented and well discussed – but not well understood. How can people respond to sugar pills and the like?

Even more oddly, the placebo effect seems to be changing with time, at least in terms of antidepressant medications. In a classic paper published about a decade and a half ago, Walsh et al. found that the placebo effect was getting more pronounced over the years. Dr. Timothy Walsh joked in a Washington Post interview that “[t]hey’re making placebos better and better.” Besides being an interesting finding, there are larger issues – start with the implications to drug development. After all, if the placebo effect is rising, it becomes more challenging to develop a drug that bests it.

Have things changed since the publication of the Walsh et al. paper?

In this week’s Reading, we consider the new Furukawa et al. paper. This study, which reviewed 250 plus randomized controlled trials that involved more than 26,000 patients and included unpublished data, found that the placebo effect isn’t increasing. Also in the Reading: an editorial commenting on the Furukawa et al. paper.

Please note – there will be no Reading next week.

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